Al Jazeera bans U.S. staff from using 'extremist, terrorist, Islamist, jihad'

by Will Hall, |

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Al Jazeera America executive Carlos van Meek has directed employees in Washington, D.C. and New York to "manage our words carefully" in an email instructing writers and editors to avoid characterizing people as extremist, terrorist, Islamist, or even militants, radicals and insurgents.

National Review Online broke the story using an AJA internal memo secreted to NRO.

"One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter," van Meek wrote. "We will not use these terms unless attributed to a source/person."

Al Jazeera is an Arab news service based in Doha, Qatar, a country accused by media outlets like the New York Times and the U.K.-based Telegraph of funding Islamic terrorist groups, a charge the Qatari government denies.

But statements from Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, might reflect why Al Jazeera is clamping down on its American affiliate. He denied funding "extremists" and said "certain movements, especially in Syria and Iraq" can be called a "terrorist movement."

However, he told CNN late last year, there are differences despite the fact "that some countries and some people (believe) that any group which comes from Islamic background are terrorists."

"And we don't accept that," he said.

Whether the emir is putting pressure on Al Jazeera executives in Doha or the media groups' leaders are just sympathetic, the result is the same with regard to the parsing now being enforced in its American organization.

Although he was fairly firm in rejecting several descriptors, van Meek did make allowances for use of the word militant, in the singular.

"We can use this term to describe individuals who favour confrontational or violent methods in support of a political or social cause," he said, using the examples of Norwegian mass-killer Andres Behring Breivik and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh—two murderers some leftist and mainstream news sources refer to as Christian terrorists.

"[W]e will not use it to describe a group of people, as in 'militants' or 'militant groups' etc.," presumably meaning Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and similar organizations.

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes attributed Al Jazeera's muzzling of its American newsrooms to "overly sensitive jihadists. For example, they called the terrorists who attacked the Corinthia Hotel in Libya, 'gunmen.'"

"It's not exactly clear why the network has an issue with such descriptors. Either their reporters can't pronounce multi-syllable words," he said, tongue in cheek, "or, they don't want to offend the militant Islamic extremists."

Starnes also pointed out the irony in Al Jazeera banning the use of "terrorist" to describe Boko Haram militants and ISIS while the term is "exactly how some Common Core lessons are describing our Founding Fathers."

His full commentary can be viewed immediately below.

Meeks defended his memo, describing it as a reminder "straight out of our Style Guide" [underlining is his emphasis], and he invited recipients of the guidance to submit changes which "will be considered based on merit."