Calling an event terrorism or a person a terrorist is not the sole preserve of the authorities, but professional journalists need to take care with these labels
Soon after midnight last Monday a van hit pedestrians outside Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, London, near a mosque from which worshippers were dispersing. Among the queries I received about the Guardian’s coverage was one that recurs often, defies definitive answer, but merits attention: what acts should be called “terrorism”, what actors “terrorists”? It matters because prominence, focus and anxiety accompany those labels, and one of terrorism’s aims is to create fear.
Re-reading, days later, the Guardian’s Finsbury Park live blog, which began at 1.50am London time and closed 22 hours later, I concluded that “terrorist attack” was not prematurely or irresponsibly used to describe what was alleged.