Why Media Refrained From Calling Finsbury Park Mosque Suspect A ‘Terrorist’

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People have been taking to social media to ask why the reporting of a ‘terror attack’ outside a mosque in Finsbury Park, London, is different to recent attacks in the country.

Police were called to Finsbury Park shortly after midnight to arrest the 48-year-old man who’d been pinned down by heroic members of the public.

The alleged killer used a white van to mow down pedestrians who were leaving Ramadan night prayers.

PA

Scotland Yard confirmed one man died at the scene while eight others are being treated in separate hospitals. Two more have minor injuries.

Many media outlets are referring to the suspect as a ‘white van driver’ instead of ‘terrorist’, and this has been causing people to ask ‘why?’.

Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, tweeted her anger at the headline on one Mail Online article, saying ‘now let’s explain how he was radicalised’.

https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/876686501505060864

But one former-journalist has taken to Twitter to explain why the reporting is different to recent events like the Manchester bombing or the attacks in Westminster and London Bridge.

Steve Parks pointed out that unlike the Borough Market suspects, there has been an arrest and will be a subsequent trial which means reporting on the identity of the man is restricted.

While there is of course a wider issue with reporting bias at times, this is one incident where actually, the media is playing by the rules.

So while the terrorists in the other attacks around the country recently were rightfully instantly labeled terrorists, the media could do so as soon as police announced it was a terror incident because there was no trial to be in contempt of. In this case, an investigation, charges and then a trial have to take place and media outlets are obliged by law not to be in contempt of that.

It’s a complicated technicality but while you can be the perpetrator of a terror attack, you’re not necessarily a terrorist until you’re found guilty of exactly that by law. And that’s why the media have been held back in using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe the ‘white male van driver’.

The Met Police have urged anyone with information about the attack to come forward while extra police have been put on the streets.