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Why Al Jazeera America Won’t Say ‘Islamist’ on Air Anymore

[Ed. Note:] Last week, the National Review Online published a story about an email an executive at Al Jazeera English sent to his staff regarding the use of certain words. Al-Jazeera is owned by the Emirate of Qatar, and every penny they make from Americans who have Al Jazeera as one of their choices from whichever TV provider they use, is sending money to a regime that shelters and arms terrorists. The email was sent only hours after a terrorist attack in Libya attacked a hotel used by westerners. An American was among the dead.

This is the email NRO referred to.

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 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.

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.

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