Soon after the attack, Carlos Van Meek of Al Jazeera English sent out an email memo to Al Jazeera correspondents telling them they are not to use the terms "jihad", "Islamist", "extremist", "terrorist" or "militant" when referring to Islamist, extremist, terrorist militant jihadists. They want to "avoid characterizing people," because "one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." Right, because trying to establish an imperialist global caliphate is just freedom fighting. Beheading journalists, raping and killing Yazidi women, and keeping some as sex slaves is just freedom fighting.
BUT, it's perfectly okay to use the term militant when referring to people like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, or Norway's 'mass murderer' Anders Behring Breivik.
National Review Online's Brendan Bordelon got his hands on a leaked copy of that email:
From: Carlos Van Meek
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 10:06 AM
To: AJE-Newsdesk; AJE-Output; AJE-DC-Newsroom
Subject: Terrorists, Militants, Fighters and then some…
All: We manage our words carefully around here. So I’d like to bring to your attention to some key words that have a tendency of tripping us up. This is straight out of our Style Guide. All media outlets have one of those. So do we. If you’d like to amend, change, tweak.. pls write to Dan Hawaleshka direct who is compiling the updates to the Style Guide and they will be considered based on merit. No mass replies to this email, pls.
EXTREMIST – Do not use. Avoid characterizing people. Often their actions do the work for the viewer. Could write ‘violent group’ if we’re reporting on Boko Haram agreeing to negotiate with the government. In other words, reporting on a violent group that’s in the news for a non-violent reason.
TERRORISM/TERRORISTS – One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. We will not use these terms unless attributed to a source/person.
ISLAMIST – Do not use. We will continue to describe groups and individuals, by talking about their previous actions and current aims to give viewers the context they require, rather than use a simplistic label.
NOTE: Naturally many of our guests will use the word Islamist in the course of their answers. It is absolutely fine to include these answers in our output. There is no blanket ban on the word.
JIHAD – Do not use the Arabic term. Strictly speaking, jihad means an inner spiritual struggle, not a holy war. It is not by tradition a negative term. It also means the struggle to defend Islam against things challenging it. Again, an Arabic term that we do not use.
FIGHTERS – We do not use words such as militants, radicals, insurgents. We will stick with fighters. However, these terms are allowed when quoting other people using them.Makes one want to slam one's head into the wall.
MILITANT – We can use this term to describe individuals who favour confrontational or violent methods in support of a political or social cause. For example, we can use the term to describe Norwegian mass-killer Andres Behring Breivik or Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. But please note: we will not use it to describe a group of people, as in ‘militants’ or ‘militant groups’ etc.
It's not the first leaked email to show just how biased the Qatar-based news agency is. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, National Review Online also managed to get a hold of other emails where Al Jazeera execs criticised the overwhelming global support for freedom of speech.
Maybe it's time Al Jazeera crawls back to Doha where it belongs.