General Article What is terrorism? And who are terrorists?

Topic Selected: Terrorism Book Volume: 355

A bloody attack in New Zealand brought the word "terrorist" back into the headlines. What is terrorism, and why is the term controversial?

By Tom Heneghan

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ is one of those warnings journalists often hear from editors when they report about political violence.

Terms like “terrorism” or “terrorist” are highly charged, and using them in a specific case can put a journalist on one side of a controversy. That’s because they imply criticism of the goal of the attack, and there may be two or more sides to the story.

So while terror is undeniably a factor in much of the political violence of recent decades, using terror-related terms can be tricky. Editors sometimes advise reporters to use descriptions like “militant” or “urban guerrilla” to get around the problem.

Let’s pick apart the problem of terrorism to under

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