March 18, 2019

ORF FM4: After Christchurch – When Is a Terrorist Not a Terrorist?

March 15th, 2019


Joanna Bostock from FM4 “Reality Check”, ORF’s radio news programme, asked Yan St-Pierre whether there is a tendency to call Islamist attacks terrorism, and a reluctance to use the term in other cases.

Far-right terrorism, according to counter- terrorism advisor Yan St-Pierre, is seen as a different kind of threat, which in part explains why social media platforms were slow to take down the footage of the attack livestreamed by the attacker, and why it was actually broadcast on TV.

“I think a lot of people have learned the lesson when it’s related to Islamist terrorism that we don’t want to spread the ISIS propaganda, but when it comes to far-right terrorism, or even left-wing terrorism, the lessons haven’t been there. There was a similar attack on the Quebec City mosque in Canada in January 2017 where to this day (the trial ended a few weeks ago) people remain reluctant to describe the attack as terrorist. There are legal issues with this – people say you have to be at least three people or a recognised association for it to be considered terrorism. Those criteria are outdated and need to be adjusted accordingly.”

St-Pierre says Prime Minister Ardern was right to describe the Christchurch attack as terrorist: “There is no doubt about the attacker’s political motives, laid bare by the manifesto and the pictures offering a tribute to other far-right terrorists. In this case, there was enough evidence to allow a quick labelling of this attack and to publicly describe it as terrorism. The question however will be whether or not he will be charged for terrorism offences as opposed to only murder charges.”

Yan St-Pierre foresees an increase in attacks like the mosque shooting in Christchurch, and points out that the frequency and violence of such attacks in recent years has been on the rise. Perhaps if the lesson is learned and the terrorist definition is applied, more effort and resources might be dedicated to preventing them.

To listen to the interview or read the article, please refer to the link above.

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