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12 Dec, 2016 13:06

‘Reuters citing ISIS ‘news agency’ elevates its legitimacy’

‘Reuters citing ISIS ‘news agency’ elevates its legitimacy’

By citing the Amaq 'news agency,' which is considered the mouthpiece of ISIS, Reuters is bringing a new recognition to the terrorist organization, by virtue of the platform it reports from, says legal and media analyst Lionel.

The Reuters news agency while reporting ISIS attempts to retake Palmyra in an article seems to avoid using the term 'terrorists,' but instead labels them as militants. 

The report cites the Amaq 'news agency' as a source. Amaq is considered to be Islamic State's propaganda machine. It appeared in 2014 and has become notorious for releasing ISIS claims about terrorist attacks.

It also posts videos of the terrorist massacres and executions.

RT: Can one justify using an ISIS-affiliated news agency as a reliable and first-hand source of information?

Lionel: I find it interesting because here in the US we are talking about fake news constantly; we are talking about what are legitimate news sources. We are also hearing how RT is called a state-run news agency. Some people have suggested, especially in the State Department, that they don’t necessarily acknowledge RT because it is state-run. But now I guess this Amaq or this group is now a new player in accepted media journalism. I find that fascinating.

RT: What do you think has triggered Reuters to cite an agency that is close to ISIS militants while reporting on ongoing events in Palmyra?

Lionel: I am not sure exactly what triggered this. But I find it interesting that there is no explanation in terms of who this organization is and what their perspective might be and how that perspective and, dare I say, bias might cloud the perspective that they enjoy. If I were doing that, I make sure that everybody understands that that is one thing to say a news agency for ISIS and it is another thing to say propaganda, or basically a ‘tool of.' But to refer to something elevated as “a news agency for,” even though it might legitimately be so – without any proviso, any explanation, any clarification as to what that means – this is new ground.

READ MORE: When does opinion become propaganda?

RT: The Reuter’s article branded ISIS fighters not as "terrorists" but "militants." Does this suggest that the Western media has reached a completely new level of hypocrisy?

Lionel: There is an old expression: one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. And I don’t necessarily know of anybody who considers themselves a terrorist. It is always accused by another party. But the point that I am saying and what is critical to now - especially for Reuters, I believe, in this particularly case - is for them to realize the unique position that it is; it is one thing to say “ISIS spokesman”…We always understand what that means. But when you call something “a news agency”… Don’t you think in this particular case, the official “news agency” of ISIS should be explained as such as opposed to calling it the new AP, the new Reuters… From a person’s point of view, the reader, or the person who is actually enjoying this particular article, the actual customer – it would be nice if I knew who these people really were. And to call them a news agency, I think it is a little misleading because it lends itself to a different perspective. Are they saying this is the same level as Reuters? Does Reuters consider this group to be on the same par with them? These are the questions they have to consider.

RT: Previously Reuters relied on reports from humanitarian organizations and questionable sources. Would you agree that Reuters believes these sources are unreliable?

Lionel: They use, for example, SOHR (Syrian Observatory For Human Rights) or White Helmets. There are other people certainly they could look to and have, and I understand this. And what they are doing is this provides a new avenue of reportage in the 21 century, I guess. The most striking though is…there’s one thing to say “spokesman”…an organization – ISIS whoever - has a spokesman…But this is “a news agency”… This is most unique because many people consider this organization [ISIS] to be a terrorist organization. But now with their own news agency that has reporters, and commentary and the perspective on world events – this is new territory, a new area that is being broached.

What is happening right now is a shape-shift. There is a huge change in the way that news is being disseminated, that platforms are being crafted and those individuals by virtue of this new platforms and the ability to report anywhere.

This is so fascinating because it elevates the legitimacy or the perceived legitimacy of a group or an organization from that of terrorist, a loosely cobbled together group of terrorists or insurgents… to that of a news agency platform; it almost puts them quasi-governmental. It’s as though you seek new elevation of legitimacy, a new recognition of the group by virtue of the platform that they report from.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.