Is GV revisionist? about a recent GV editorial policy

I recently was called my atenttion to this (also recent) post on the community blog:

Terrorist. Rebel. Illegal Immigrant. What's in a Name?

Shortly, in case you haven't read it, it says that Newsroom Editors agreed to, among other things “Avoid using the labels terror, terrorism and terrorist, unless it is in a quote.”

While I found the reasons given very valid for (some) current movements and events, I don't think this must be applied to facts and groups from the past. It is like if with a magic wand suddenly we change history and the Shining Path from Peru were not one of the cruellest terrorist groups of the world anymore.

I learnt this the hard way when the Latam Editor changed one post of mine about a peruvian terrorist recently released from jail after serving his sentence (Info about the case in english here, my post in my blog in spanish here). I disagreed with the changes and was referred to our Managing Editor. After a few email exchanges I realized she was not going to change her mind. So we agreed to withdraw my post from the platform.

For me, taking this decision it is not a matter of stubbornness or intransigence, it is about the memory of the thousands of Peruvians who died in the terrorist acts of those who decided to impose violence and death without showing their faces and try to take power without knowing what for. I live in a city that is full of memories of that time, where every day I meet people belonging to communities that were displaced by the actions of terrorist cells. I lived that times and I would fail myself if I accept not to call terrorists to whom almost managed to destroy my country. It is about my conscience and my truth.

So, I share this with you because I still believe in GV as a place of transparency and tolerance, not to try to revert the decision on my post, but to have a discussion with others GVrs about this subjects:

Is it an excess of political correctness not to call terrorist the terrorist?
Must this be just a journalistic decision?
Isn't memory and reconciliation processes in which we have to call things by their real name in order to reach peace and forgive?
If a whole country calls terrorism some facts from its past, do others have the right to dismiss that?
Is there anyone personally affected by terrorism on this list? What does he/she think about this?

I know political context may have been radically different in each country that has seen the outbreak of a terrorist movement, but that would enrich any exchange on that. For example, the romantic perception of the guerrillas as seen in Latin American countries in the 60s and 70s can still permeate the views of some, but currently, guerrilla and terrorism are often quite different terms in use around here. So… I really hope an interesting conversation can be started on this subject.


Thanks for your attention! and excuse me for the sensationalist title, just a bit of clickbait…

PS. No GVr was harmed on the process described before.


  • Cati Restrepo

    I think this topic is a interesting and important conversation. I’m social worker and I’m agree (in great measure) with use “terrorist” in the “Sendero Luminoso” case because its similarity with the Colombian Conflict story.
    My question is: How validate use or not use of “terrorist” in a GV post? Maybe we can determine use it if we are describing old or extinct conflicts?? Because that is a thin line with the victims dignity.
    Best regards.

  • M. Isabel Guerra

    I feel deeply outraged.
    Our memories, our country’s history, and the memory of all those VICTIMS who died due to TERRORIST attacks, terrorism should always be called by its name. Period.
    Yes, we all mourn for Paris today. But I also have Peruvian friends living in Paris and another European capitals, who fled from Peru many years ago trying to leave Shining Path’s terrorism behind. They left their lives behind and started from zero in a new country. Try to explain them today those lame reasons about why terrorism should not be called terrorism. Specially when we all saw during those years how some European countries gave some Shining Path leaders the status of “political refugees” very easily.
    If GV writers are not free to describe what we see with our own view and with own words, or even worse, to use the only possible and sensible word choice (only to be encouraged to use political correct euphemisms), then what is the point of being a “free” alternative platform?
    Yes, this is personal, and I’m sorry if you don’t like it but dignity, justice and respect about innocent victims is and will always be more important that merely keeping up appearances.
    And thank you, it’s been great while it lasted. Under this policy, I will no longer write for GV.

  • Isabel, I just read your comment and wanted to assure you that our policy is not as black and white or heavy-handed as it seems here.

    We published the post about our policy as a discussion launching point. If you wrote a post tomorrow using the label terrorist with attribution it would be published on GV. If you wrote a post tomorrow about terrorism without attribution it would launch a discussion. We never take unilateral editorial decisions. Our goal is to build bridges of global understanding and we can only do that through an open dialogue with our community.

    Regarding our “terrorism” discussion, we discussed that is important to be aware that terrorism is a political term and we should make an effort to reveal the politics behind the label. In our editorial code, we ask that labels be attributed and we be conscious of labels. So if a group is called terrorist by the state, we ask that writers say declared a “terrorist” by the state instead of calling a group terrorist without attributing who gave that label and why they gave it. Descriptions of actions are more powerful than labels.

    Juan, I completely agree with your sentiment about expanding the discussion of labels. Really looking forward to our GV Face discussion next Wednesday: Isabel, I hope you can join the discussion!

    Juan, I also want to clarify something regarding your framing of our editorial discussion in your post about the Shining Path in Peru.

    When we were editing your post, we did not say you could not use the term “terrorism” in your post, in fact the term and its derivates were placed throughout your post. We just asked that you avoid using the “label without attribution”. I am sorry if that wasn’t clear. For example, in the lead you described Peter Cárdenas Schulte “as an ex-terrorist that was convicted on terrorism and aggravated terrorism charges.” We asked you to remove “ex-terrorist”, and replace it with a description. We did not ask you to remove that he was convicted of terrorism.

    Similarly, we asked you to use an adjective like “murderous” or “violent” or “brutal” or “armed” in the headline instead of the label terrorist without attribution. And we asked you to describe the actions of the group instead of just calling them a “terrorist organization” so that our global audiences with no context or background on the issue could understand the story. But unfortunately you weren’t willing to make those additions and decided not to publish on GV.

    I worked as a reporter and producer during what many analysts and government officials call ‘Pakistan’s bloodiest year of “terrorism”‘: 2009. Suicide attacks and bombings was a part of my daily work life. One day I arrived in the control room to produce breaking news on a bombing at a traffic light I crossed 30 minutes earlier. Two political rallies I was assigned to, but didn’t make it to because of last minute schedule changes, got bombed. I’ve had colleagues get hurt physically and psychologically. I’ve seen the horrific aftermath of suicide bombings. Even for someone like me, who has seen systematic violence and bombings targeting and terrorizing civilians, I don’t use labels like “terrorists” when I’m referring to the people behind the killings. To me this political label has been massively abused by governments, it has been used as a smokescreen to obfuscates the issues that creates the people and organizations who murderously kill civilians or also to target individuals who question or disagree with their government.

    But that is how I personally feel about the issue. Any policy at GV will always be expansive enough to reflect the sentiments of the community as a whole.

    I hope this addresses your concerns Isabel and Juan and I’m looking forward to discussing the issue with more GVers on GV Face next Wednesday.

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