Al Jazeera Reportedly Told Staff to Avoid ‘Jihad,’ ‘Islamist’ in Reporting


In an email reportedly obtained by the National Review, Al Jazeera English executive Carlos van Meek instructed staff to avoid the words “jihad,” “terrorist,” “militant” and “Islamic.”

“All: We manage our words carefully around here,” NRO quoted van Meek as writing. “So I’d like to bring to your attention some key words that have a tendency of tripping us up.”

Van Meek told the DC and New York-based staff to avoid terms like “militants” and “terrorists.” “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter,” he wrote. “Avoid characterizing people. Often their actions do the work for the viewer.”

Van Meek went on to describe the term “Islamist” as “a simplistic label.” However: “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,” van Meek wrote. “There is no blanket ban on the word.”

“Jihad,” on the other hand, seemed more explicitly forbidden. “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.”

The email comes as a global debate unfolds over how to label attacks such as those on the Charlie Hebdo office. Heads of state, including President Barack Obama, have avoided calling the perpetrators “Islamic” extremists, arguing the militants are a distortion of Islam, and hoping to isolate radical factions from the mainstream of the religion. (See also.)

This is the second email from the Qatari-owned network NRO has gotten its mitts on; the previous communications showed stark division in AJE’s newsrooms over the Charlie Hebdo covers, which displayed caricatures of the prophet Muhammed, a practice forbidden in Islam.

Al Jazeera English pointed Mediaite to a video published months ago detailing usage of the terms based on their style guide:

[h/t National Review]

[Image via screengrab]

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