Toronto Star Calls Terror By Its Name
March 9, 2008
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.
But all too often, Canada’s media try to avoid using the “terror” word. Either news organizations refuse to use the word at all, which strips meaning away from horrific events like this week’s massacre in a Jerusalem seminary which saw the deaths of eight students and more than a dozen wounded, including a 14-year-old Canadian citizen named Nadav Eliayahu Samuels.
Yet one Canadian news organization, the Toronto Star, took a principled stand and departed from previous editorial policies by giving front-page prominence to the seminary attack by headlining and appropriately calling terror by its rightful name.
In two subsequent reports by Mideast bureau chief Oakland Ross on Friday and Saturday, the Star used the “terror” word and its variants a remarkable 10 times to describe the seminary shooting and past attacks inside Israel. Instead of using ‘safe’ language that deliberately minimizes the terrorist’s inhumane acts and appeases their very actions, the Star used the term consistently in headlines, lead and body paragraphs, in a conscious decision to avoid sanitizing language.
Likewise, the Star gave important column inches to Israeli ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker on Friday, one day after the attack to discuss “The way of terror and the response” which included these choice quotes:
“Day after day Canadians are treated – whether through footage on their TV screens or through the reports from correspondents in Jerusalem, Ramallah or Gaza – to what they are told is a “tit-for-tat” or “cycle of violence.” Canadians see the ongoing, daily spectre of missile attacks on the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon and suicide bombings carried out by Hamas or other terror groups from the Gaza Strip, and the response by Israeli forces to such terror attacks, directed against the bombers and the terror infrastructure. Canadians are shown people getting killed and wounded.
But there is something very wrong and misleading in presenting this situation as a “cycle” with equal components. The equation, so glibly presented through the Canadian media to Canadians, between pure, deliberate terror on the one hand, and the attempts to prevent it on the other, is misguided, misleading and creates in itself an utterly false and unfair equivalence.
There is no cycle of violence. But there is terror and the response thereto.”
Echoing Mr. Baker’s remarks, Oakland Ross also commented on the linguistic minefield of Mideast reporting in Saturday’s edition noting the following:
“The way the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is viewed, and the words used to portray it, can make a crucial difference between winning and losing, if not on the ground in the Middle East, then certainly in the court of international public opinion.”
In recent years, the Toronto Star has been heavily criticized for their reporting on Israel. As it appears to have turned a new leaf, the Star should be commended for calling terror by its name and encouraged to use the term consistently, as warranted in future coverage.
How You Can Make a Difference
Keeping in mind that what appears in the Canadian media today becomes Canadian foreign policy tomorrow, HonestReporting Canada encourages readers to commend the Toronto Star for using the word “terror” to accurately describe the premeditated murders of innocents in Israel. Email a brief letter to: email@example.com
Pointers for contacting the Star: 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.