Friday, March 15, 2013

15-Mar-13: Terrorists walking free in UK: Who's laughing now?

The caption is today's Telegraph reads: "Ibrahim Magag, 28,
who has absconded while being held on a Terrorism Prevention
and Investigation Measures notice Photo: INS"
Magag, a British Somali terrorist, has been on the loose since December 2012
From the British daily newspapers today:
  • Most dangerous terror suspects free to walk streets within a year, watchdog warns | Britain’s most dangerous terror suspects will be “free and unconstrained” on the streets within a year because of the watered down replacement to control orders, a watchdog has warned [Telegraph]
  • UK terror suspects to walk free within a year | Six potentially dangerous suspects will be released from January when special surveillance orders expire, warns terror watchdog [Guardian]
  • Ten 'potentially dangerous' terror suspects including pair linked to liquid bomb plot 'will be free by the end of the year' | Terrorism suspects used to held under renewable control orders | The new orders can be extended only if there is fresh evidence | Ten potentially dangerous individuals will be free from next year [Daily Mail]
What we feel right now is not schadenfreude. Over the years, we have learned to ignore the sniffiness of the parts of the British media that routinely excoriate Israel's measures against terrorists (waves of them, from every direction, with dead Jews on their minds and in their hearts) because we know it's human nature to minimize the threats to other people and get vexed about the threats to your own children and communities.

Still, we think the BBC deserves a specific mention. That's the media conglomerate whose strict editorial rules render it incapable of writing 'terror' or 'terrorist' or 'terrorism' other than under strictly limited conditions. In their report on this latest development, entitled "Terror watchdog urges higher standard of proof", their editors decide to mention the word 'terror' or variants 19 times. But then, the terrorism in this latest chapter is an actual existential threat to the British population which changes everything.

As a remind to readers, the BBC's guidelines on the use of the 'T' word that we described in several previous posts [for instance "30-Jun-07: Britain at war"] say
Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We try to avoid the use of the term "terrorist" without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy. The word "terrorist" itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding... We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as "bomber", "attacker", "gunman", "kidnapper", "insurgent", and "militant".  We should not adopt other people's language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.
Difficult and emotive - that's about right. We plan to look more closely at this, perhaps later today.

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