Striving for accuracy in your Middle East coverage? Here are some word-use words of advice.
In a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece, Gilead Ini, a senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), highlights some words that have the potential to bias Middle East coverage. Using these adjectives, or “judgment terms,” as Idi calls them, “allows a journalist’s personal views, rather than just the facts, to dramatically influence public understanding of a controversial topic like the Mideast conflict,” Ini says.
Though CAMERA has been widely criticized for itself acting as a biased special-interest group, Ini’s discussion of words to watch out for is still a pretty good guide: (Keep in mind though that even though these choices reflect words used in a way that makes Israel look bad, buzzwords can and do bias stories in both directions, depending on how they are applied.)
Ini argues that “moderate” is not an accurate term with which to describe Palestinian political party, Fatah.
Is “hawkish” an appropriate adjective to describe the current Israeli government? Ini says no.
(Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a “hawk” as “one who takes a militant attitude and advocates immediate vigorous action; especially : a supporter of a war or warlike policy.”)
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See “hawkish” above.
Rather than calling Palestinian ruling party Hamas “extreme,” Ini writes, journalists should provide factual statements instead, like “the group is responsible for suicide bombings against civilians and is designated by the international community as a terrorist organization.”
Ostensibly, Ini seems to suggest that “security-minded” might be a more accurate term than “hawkish” for Israel’s government, but the tenor of this opinion piece seems to be that all of these types of adjectives are suspect and should be avoided.
“What, for instance, is the difference between “security-minded” and “hawkish”?… What must a government believe before it is reasonable to dub it “hardline” or “moderate”? There are no universally accepted answers to these questions,” Ini says.
But it might be going too far here to say that there is never an instance where one of these “judgment terms” could be supported by enough facts to be usable. There must be some room in journalism for adjectives whose use is well supported by evidence and wide consensus. After all, if the basis for including words in a news story is that they must be “universally accepted,” we wouldn’t have any news stories.
Read Ini’s argument in full here.