August 20, 2017

Reuters Continues to Avoid the T-Word, Even Excising It From a Direct Quote

As I noted in a Friday post, the Associated Press, in covering the Islamic terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambril, Spain last week which which killed at least 14 and injured 120, seemed to have at least temporarily recovered its senses in twice noting that the attacks were carried out by an “Islamic terrorist cell.” But not even the obvious facts about the attacks in Spain could move Reuters, arguably the world’s leading wire service with obviously heavy influence in the U.S., to properly label the attacks.

Numerous examples of this negligent treatment at Reuters abound, but perhaps the worst was published on Saturday. The wire service’s Angus Berwick and Andrés González not only managed to avoid using the T-word themselves, they obviously went to great lengths to avoid quoting or referring to anyone who likely used it, even to the point of, from all appearances, truncating a quoted statement by a public official (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Spain hunts for driver in van rampage, says Islamist cell dismantled

Police were searching on Saturday for the driver of a van that killed 13 people when it plowed into a crowd in Barcelona and were trying to determine whether two other suspected Islamist militants linked to the attack had died or were at large.

The Spanish government said it considered it had dismantled the cell behind Thursday’s Barcelona rampage and an attack early on Friday in the Catalan seaside town of Cambrils.

Police arrested four people in connection with the attacks Barcelona and Cambrils, where a woman was killed when a car rammed passersby on Friday. Five attackers wearing fake explosive belts were also shot dead in the Catalan town.

“The cell has been fully dismantled in Barcelona, after examining the people who died, the people who were arrested and carrying out identity checks,” Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told a news conference.

But authorities have yet to identify the driver of the van and his whereabouts are unclear, while police and officials in the northeastern region of Catalonia said they still needed to locate up to two other people.

Investigators are focusing on a group of at least 12 suspects believed to be behind the deadliest attacks to hit Spain in more than a decade.

In little more than a year, militants have used vehicles as weapons to kill nearly 130 people in France, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Spain.

Attacks in the five countries identified have been carried out by Islamic militants (three separate times in the case of Britain).

The brazen and deliberately deceptive use of “militants” instead of “terrorists” is standard operating procedure for Reuters, which, as I noted last year, issued a very clear directive to its reporters some time ago, the first two paragraphs of which are produced below:

terrorism, terrorist

Reuters may refer without attribution to terrorism and counterterrorism in general, but do not refer to specific events as terrorism. Nor does Reuters use the word terrorist without attribution to qualify specific individuals, groups or events.

“Terrorism” and “terrorist” must be retained when quoting someone in direct speech. When quoting someone in indirect speech, care must be taken with sentence structure to ensure it is entirely clear that they are the source’s words and not a label.

But Berwick and González went further when they published the bolded sentence above (“The cell has been fully dismantled in Barcelona …“) from Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido.

That’s because the following sources tell us that the following is what Zoido really said:

  • (via the UK Metro) “At a press conference on Saturday, Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido declared that police had broken the ‘terrorist cell from Barcelona’.”
  • (Headline at the Associated Press, as carried at ABCnews.com, Chron.com, and surely other AP-subscribing sites) “Spanish Interior Minister Zoido says police have broken ‘terrorist cell from Barcelona’”

Other evidence, though not in direct quotes, that Zoido used the word “terrorist” can be found at Business Insider, the Daily Caller, and China’s Xinhuanet.

The point is that the Reuters pair, from all appearances deliberately, chose to sanitize and incompletely report what Zoido said to ensure that their report wouldn’t be sullied by an appeazrance of the dreadful T-word — even though their employer’s guidelines demand that they use that word if and when someone they are directly quoting uses it in an important statement.

Berwick and González succeeded in that effort. Their report contains no reference in any way, shape or form to terrorism or terrorists. They should be ashamed of themselves for their irresponsibility. If Reuters had the integrity it claims it has, it would discipline the pair.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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