Saturday, September 18, 2004

Newspapers accused of misusing word 'terrorist'

OTTAWA - Canada's largest newspaper chain, CanWest Global, is being criticized over its use of the word 'terrorist' in stories about the Middle East.

The owner of the National Post and dozens of other papers across Canada is being accused of inappropriately inserting the word into newswire copy dealing with the Middle East, thereby changing the meaning of those stories.

One of the world's leading news agencies, Reuters, said CanWest newspapers have been altering words and phrases in stories dealing with the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reuters told CBC News it would complain to CanWest about the issue.

The global managing editor for Reuters, David Schlesinger, called such changes unacceptable. He said CanWest had crossed a line from editing for style to editing the substance and slant of news from the Middle East.

'If they want to put their own judgment into it, they're free to do that, but then they shouldn't say that it's by a Reuters reporter,' said Schlesinger.

As an example, Schlesinger cited a recent Reuters story, in which the original copy read: '...the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.'

In the National Post version of the story, printed Tuesday, it became: '...the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.'

Neither the National Post nor CanWest returned calls.