AP shifts style on Islamic State again

September 17, 2014
Category: Uncategorized

Associated Press

Here’s yet another style change related to the terrorist group that has been known as ISIS, ISIL and the Islamic State: the Associated Press now refers to it mostly as “the Islamic State group.”

Previously, the AP told Poynter its approach was “to refer to them on first reference simply as ‘Islamic militants,’ ‘jihadi fighters,’ ‘the leading Islamic militant group fighting in Iraq (Syria), etc.’”

Vivian Salama reports on the latest change:

The AP now uses phrases like “the Islamic State group,” or “fighters from the Islamic State group,” to avoid phrasing that sounds like they could be fighting for an internationally recognized state.

“The word ‘state’ implies a system of administration and governance,” said David L. Phillips, the director of Peace-Building and Rights Program at Columbia University. “It’s not a term that would be used to characterize a terrorist group or militia that is merely rolling up territory.”

On Monday, New York Times standards editor Philip Corbett wrote that the newspaper would begin referring to the group as the Islamic State, not ISIS, which stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. government still prefers the acronym ISIL, which stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a translation that the AP previously used and argued was more accurate before the group “rebranded” itself as the Islamic State in June.

When using the group’s preferred term, which has been adopted by many major news organizations including Reuters, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, the Times “will try to be careful to avoid leaving the impression that we are describing an actual, recognized state,” Corbett wrote.

By using terms like “the Islamic State group” and “fighters from the Islamic State group” but not simply “the Islamic State,” the AP seems to have the same goal: avoiding confusion by referring to the group by its actual name, as many other news organizations do — but without appearing to grant it undue legitimacy.