Voice of America receives more than $260 million in taxpayer money every year. It recently ordered its employees not to refer to Hamas as "terrorists" unless they are quoting statements. In an email to employees, a VOA associate editor stressed the importance of VOA maintaining impartiality in its coverage and called on its reporters to "be especially careful with word choice in dealing with a conflict." (See related article)
That editor went on to say that language including the term "terrorism" is often used to demonize individuals and groups with whom the speaker disagrees, and that useful alternatives are militants or fighters.
Bill D'Agostino is senior research analyst for NewsBusters at Media Research Center.
"The argument is always that this is dehumanization or that it's offending people when, in fact, … in every case the identified victim group that they are trying to defend are themselves an offender in some way," he tells AFN.
"In the case of terrorists, it's very obvious what they're guilty of, right? But [VOA is] affording them this absurd courtesy of now they're 'militant,' now they are 'fighters.'"
D'Agostino says the underlying motive is about attempting to poison the discourse.
"'Terrorist' already sends alarm bells off in somebody's head; they hear 'terrorist' and it's like an immediate, I would say, well-poisoner," he describes. "You hear immediately a designator for somebody who is bad.
"What they're doing is … priming their audience to see what they would call nuance – [but] what I would call an overly sympathetic side to essentially a terrorist organization," he concludes.