The Guardian doesn’t call an attack terrorism until authorities do, new Guardian readers editor Elisabeth Ribbans explained.
The issue came up in late February, when Ribbans heard complaints that the Guardian didn’t call a mass murder near Frankfurt a terrorist attack at first. A German citizen shot nine people in two shisha bars in Hanau, Germany, and then his mother and himself.
In Ribbans’ March 1 column, she explained editors told her “; as a matter of responsible reporting they wait for authorities to declare an act as terrorism before adopting the term.” Further, she said editors are concerned that something is labeled terrorism too soon and turns out not to be.
“In a span of coverage that exposed fully the horror of the Hanau attack, I do not believe any lag with terminology should be blamed on double standards – the threat from far-right terrorism is well understood – but on caution around uncertainty. Nevertheless, words carry weight and any perceived asymmetry of language deserves ongoing scrutiny,” Ribbans wrote.
The Guardian declined to comment beyond Ribbans’ column.