Al Jazeera English executive Carlos van Meek banned his news employees from using words like “terrorist,” “Islamist” and “jihad,” explaining that it’s important to realize that some might take offense — that one person’s idea of terrorism is simply another person’s fight for freedom.
“All: We manage our words carefully around here,” he wrote to staff at the news channel’s New York and Washington, D.C., offices, the National Review reported. “So I’d like to bring to your attention some key words that have a tendency of tripping us up.”
Some of the banned words: “Terrorist,” “Islamist” and “jihad,” the email said.
“One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fight,” Mr. van Meek wrote, National Review reported.
And as for the word “extremist,” the executive warned that news staff should “avoid characterizing people.” Rather, he said, “often their actions do the word for the viewer,” the email said, National Review reported.
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He went on: “Do not use Islamist” because it’s “a simplistic label.” And don’t use “jihad,” he said, because “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.”
Mr. van Meek suggested employees instead use words like “fighters and “militants,” but only in certain conditions. He sent out the email shortly after Islamic terrorists attacked a hotel in Libya’s capital city, the news outlet said.
“For example,” he said, National Review reported, “we can use the term [militant] to describe Norwegian mass-killer Andres Behring Breivik or Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.”
Mr. van Meek was introduced at a 2013 Northwestern University seminar in Qatar as the “head of Al Jazeera English,” in charge of “establishing Al Jazeera in America,” National Review reported.