- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

One newspaper is still hand-wringing over the word "terrorist." The Minnesota Star-Tribune won't use the term in stories about Arab-Israeli violence, opting for "specific terms such as 'suicide bomber,'" according to Managing Editor Pam Fine.
"This helps us avoid labels that might suggest we're taking sides, especially in instances such as this when both sides are calling each other 'terrorists.' Our policy does not discriminate against Jews or anyone else," Ms. Fine said.
The word has already been in trouble. Last November, Reuters news agency and the BBC banned it as inflammatory. "We abstain from judgment," noted one Reuters editor in a staff memo. "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
Critics at the time saw it as ethical overreaction, proof the press could not bare its patriotism even in wartime. The issues, however, continue to evolve.
"We are fighting a military war, and a mentality war here. The word 'terrorist' has already been made official by the U.S. government," said Daniel Pipes of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum yesterday. "Not to use it is to distance oneself from the national response. Whatever the semantic or substantive issues, it is time to put them aside."
Still, the Star-Tribune stated its policy in a Feb. 3 column by ombudsman Lou Gelfand, who wrote that the paper avoided the term "because of the emotional and heated nature of that dispute."
It warranted a hardball scolding from the Wall Street Journal and Minnesotans Against Terrorism, a grass-roots group that took out a full-page, $16,500 advertisement in the paper Tuesday, calling the policy "just plain wrong."
"Our government has formally declared violent Palestinian groups including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to be 'terrorist organizations,'" the group stated. "Terrorists are terrorists, whether the victims are Jews in Israel, Americans in the World Trade Center, or others. Why doesn't our local paper understand that?"
Ms. Fine countered that the ad "grossly misrepresents our policy and our practice."
A host of Minnesota lawmakers including Sens. Mark Dayton and Paul Wellstone and Gov. Jesse Ventura were among 400 people who signed the ad, along with two dozen rabbis and some 800 conservative synagogues.
Organizer and lawyer Mark Rotenberg, who missed a terrorist bomb by seconds last December in Israel, accused the Star-Tribune of a double standard. He cited a March 28 story that called Hamas an "Islamic militant group" and terrorist spokesmen as "officials."
The ad advised readers to call the Star-Tribune's editor-in-chief, Tim McGuire. According to the paper, 100 calls came in within hours, running three-to-one against the policy.
"No news organization can be taken seriously if it willfully refuses to describe the targeted killings of civilians to achieve political objectives by its proper name: terrorism. Wake up," Mr. Rotenberg said.
Meanwhile, the press itself has taken issue with the new Israeli policy, which closed the cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah to journalists for safety reasons.
"Closing entire cities to the media indefinitely is an extreme and unjustifiable measure that makes it impossible for the media to do its job," the Foreign Press Association said, while the Committee to Protect Journalists noted, "Some journalists feel there is an attempt to intimidate those still covering events."

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