CBC’s Terror Double Standard
December 12, 2007
By: Mike Fegelman
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
Since our inception, we have called on the Canadian media to describe individuals whose intentional use of violence against civilians, done in order to achieve religious, political or ideological objectives, as terrorists. Instead, these individuals and their actions are labeled in the broadest political terms as militants, insurgents, activists, guerillas, and politicians.
As the media continue to fail to contextualize terror and call it by its respectful name, our public broadcaster, the CBC, is perpetuating a double standard in its use of the “T-word” and its variants.
On December 11, CBC Around the World featured prominent coverage of a ruthless terrorist attack by Al Qaeda in Algeria. To watch the report click here or on the image below.
To its credit, the CBC did in fact label the truck bombings “terrorist attacks,” but opted to describe the attackers as “militants” and “insurgents.”
According to host Marabelle Taruk: “We begin with terrorist attacks that have left a North African nation on edge in Algeria. Al Qaeda militants penetrated a heavily secured area and detonated two truck bombs, at least 26 people were killed and nearly two hundred injured…”
Following the report the program featured a montage of different slides identifying “Other Terrorist Attacks on the 11th” To watch the clip click here or on the image below.
Some of those attacks mentioned included:
- March 11, 2004: Train bombing in Madrid, Spain (kills 191 people)
- April 11, 2002: Suicide bombing at a synagogue in Tunisia kills 21 people, mostly German tourists
- Sept. 11, 2001: Al Qaeda attacks kill 2,973 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
While we commend the CBC for calling a spade a spade, the very fact that it used the “T-word” went against the Corporation’s own editorial guidelines which encourages reporters to label these atrocities “attacks” and their perpetrators “militants.”
CBC’s Dubious Dichotomy:
Following the report about the Algerian attack, CBC Around the World then featured another report (watch by clicking here) by its Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Armstrong, who covered a recent IDF incursion into the Gaza Strip designed to thwart and prevent Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
Though Armstrong did mention the “persistent rocket fire” that Israel was trying to defuse, nowhere did he inform Canadian citizens that the perpetrators of these attacks (Popular Resistance Committees, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad) are terrorists. Furthermore, these attacks and attackers have carried out a broader campaign of terror against Israel, which in the past seven years has killed over a thousand Israelis and injured several thousand more.
This is a rather stunning double standard considering that the Canada Gazette, the Canadian government’s own comprehensive list of terrorist entities, classify these groups as terrorists, yet our own public broadcaster does not.
According to the CBC: “In 2002, CBC News clarified its policy on the words terrorist and terrorism. The corporation’s journalists have been told to avoid using either term without attribution.”
Likewise after the London transit bombings of 7/7, former editor-in-chief Tony Burman issued an internal memo after CBC staffers referred to the attacks using the terror word. According to the memo:
“‘Terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’: use extreme caution before using either word … Rather than calling assailants ‘terrorists’, we can refer to them as bombers, hijackers, gunmen, militants, extremists, attackers or some other appropriate noun.”
Ironically, neutral terms like ‘militant’ betray a bias, insofar as they have a sanitizing effect. Activists for various political causes can be ‘militant’ but they don’t take children hostage, strap bombs to trucks or fire crude missiles at civilian populaces.
By bending over backwards in using ‘safe’ language that deliberately minimizes their inhumane acts, the media only serves to appease terrorists.
This inevitably begs the following question: Why does the CBC consider a suicide bombing in Algeria a “terrorist attack,” but dozens of rockets falling onto Israeli cities a mere “attack”?
How You Can Make a Difference:
- HonestReporting Canada encourages readers to commend the CBC for using the word “terror” to accurately describe the premeditated murders of innocents in Algeria, at the same time, ask the CBC to apply this language uniformly in future coverage of terror attacks against Israel and the rest of the world.
To contact the CBC send letters to the CBC’s Audience Relations department at email@example.com and refer to CBC Around the World’s December 11 broadcast.
Pointers for contacting the CBC: State your position clearly in your own words, remain rational and polite, and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us you took action. To be considered for publication, letters should include sender’s name and contact information for verification purposes.