Calling Terror By Its Name
June 14, 2004
Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscriber:
In recent weeks the “T-word” has appeared daily in the headlines of many Canadian newspapers. Although the word “terror” (or variants like “terrorist” and “terrorism”) is used in reference to a variety of different countries and conflicts, it is often noticeably absent from headlines relating to Palestinian attacks on Israelis. To set the record straight we examined the past three months of headlines in the Globe & Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette and Toronto Star.
Globe & Mail
The Globe and Mail used the word “terror” or its variants over 100 times in the past 3 months, referring to attacks or potential attacks against countries like Canada, Chechnya, China, Great Britain, Greece, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, and the United States.
In only two instances did a Globe headline use the word “terror” in reference to Israel: an opinion piece by Barry Rubin, and an analysis by New York Times reporter Christine Hauser entitled “Martyr or Arch-Terrorist? Revered By Palestinians, Yassin Regarded by Israel As Mastermind Of Suicide Attacks.”
In all other instances, the T-word was missing from headlines relating to Israel.
For example, the murder of Tali Hatuel (a pregnant woman) and her four daughters by Palestinian gunmen was reported as part of a political article entitled “Sharon faces chaos after losing vote.” Similarly, the deadly bombing of the Ashdod port, leaving 11 Israelis dead and 18 injured, was headlined “Double-Suicide Attack Stops Israeli-Palestinian Summit.”
Of 90 instances in which the National Post used the T-word in a headline, three were in articles related to Israel: “Terrorists Long a Target,” “Gaza Terrorists ‘Will Have to Spend Their Time Hiding’” and “Scroll dedicated To Jewish Terror Victims Stops in Montreal.” The Post also used the word “terrorist” in two editorial headlines relating to the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. And we also noticed use of the word “terrorist” in the body of Post articles referring to groups such as Hamas.
The Ottawa Citizen used the T-word proportionately in reference to Israel and other countries. Of the over 100 references to terror in Citizen headlines, references to terror against Israel included:
- Arafat Warned As terror Chief Found Guilty Of Murdering Israelis
- Terrorists Will Not Drive Us From Our Homes, Settlers Say
- Israel: Jews Observe Passover Under Terror Threat
- West Bank: Boy, 15, Rescued From Terrorist Recruiter
- Israel Foils two Terrorist Attacks
- Israel Defends Assassination of “Foremost Head Of Palestinian Terrorism”
The Montreal Gazette also used the T-word several times in reference to Israel:
- Keeping Tabs on Hezbollah: Group On Canada’s Terrorism Watch List
- Jewish Celebration Honours Victims Of Terror Attacks In Israel, United States
- Hezbollah Said To Sponsor Intifada Terror
Importantly, the Gazette informed its readers that under Canadian law, Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group – a fact rarely mentioned by the Canadian news media.
The Toronto Star used the T-word in over 100 headlines, including articles about Jordan, Kashmir, Pakistan, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Syria, to name a few. Yet we found not a single instance in which a Star headline used the T-word in relation to Israel.
For example, the Star reported the May 2 murder of Tali Hatuel and her four daughters as “Israeli Mother, 4 Daughters Slain in Gaza Strip Ambush; Settlers Shot on Way to Campaign against Pullout.” Not only does the headline fail to identify the killers as terrorists, it actually portrays girls aged 11, 9, 7 and 2 as “settlers” who were “campaigning.”
Similarly, when Palestinians bombed the Ashdod port, killing 11 Israelis and wounding 18, the Star headline read “Suicide Bombers Kill 11 at Port.” The Star’s Middle East Bureau Chief then characterized the Palestinian violence against Israelis since September 2000 as “the explosive actions of a militant minority.”
How You Can Make a Difference
What do you think of these newspapers’ performance regarding use of the T-word? Send your encouragement or complaint to:
- Globe & Mail: email@example.com
- National Post: firstname.lastname@example.org or here
- Ottawa Citizen: email@example.com or here
- Montreal Gazette: firstname.lastname@example.org or here
- Toronto Star: email@example.com
Please do not forward this backgrounder to the media.
Please be brief, polite, use your own words and request a written reply.
Please forward a copy of your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does your local paper measure up?
You can become a Media Patroller by asking your local paper to provide a written statement of their policy on using the word “terror”; monitoring their compliance with that policy; and complaining to the editor and ombudsman if they violate their stated policy. A list of Canadian news media can be found here: [blogurl]/
In its June 10 lead editorial, “Why Delay Reforms in the Arab World?” the Globe & Mail argued against the claim that “democratic reform [in the Arab world] is impossible until there is a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.” “Just about everyone agrees that a solution would ease tensions in the Arab world,” the Globe declared. “But the dispute has been going for at least half a century, and fixing it may take a while longer. There is no earthly reason why, in the meantime, Arab leaders cannot carry out the reforms that their people so desperately need.”
Comments to: email@example.com
On June 16, CBC’s ‘Witness’ will air “The Impact of Terror,” a film produced by Toronto documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici in association with the CBC. Through personal stories from survivors and families of the dead, the documentary will explore the lasting and profound impact of the bombing of a pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem.
- Premiers on CBC ‘Witness’ Wednesday June 16 at 8 p.m. ET
- Repeats on CBC Newsworld Saturday June 19 at 7 PM & 11 PM ET and Monday 3 AM ET
Questions? Comments? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org