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October 31, 2022

Media and terrorism

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The media are attracted by extreme terrorist acts not only because it is their duty to report on any major event but also because the dramatic and spectacular aspect of terrorism fascinates the general public. Today’s terrorists exploit this and act in a way that will attract maximum attention around the world.

The media enables individuals to interpret and evaluate events quickly. In this way, individuals simplify and structure the narrative of terrorist attacks and activities. The new frameworks in the media help the public to formulate their predictions and thoughts about terrorist events.

Terrorism and communication have always been inextricably linked. In order to achieve their goals, terrorists seek to promote their acts of violence to as wide an audience as possible, whether seeking to radicalize potential recruits, or aiming to spread fear through society they can stand to gain from media coverage of their acts. The relationship between media and terrorism is many terrorist organizations actively use social media to achieve their goals.

Terrorist and insurgent groups have long known the importance of harnessing the power of the mainstream media. Indeed, mass media is fundamental to terrorism as terrorists require an audience well beyond those immediately affected by acts of violence.

When reporting on terrorism, journalists/social media run the risk of providing terrorists with the coverage they crave. Deepened by the speed of information delivery on social media, the ever-growing thirst for news in real time can leave journalists/media at risk of amplifying the terrorist threat.

Terrorism should not affect the importance of freedom of expression and information in the media as one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. This freedom carries with it the right of the public to be informed on matters of public concern, including terrorist acts and threats, as well as the response by the government and international organizations to them.

We may not be able to prevent terrorism every time, but what we do have control over is our reactions. We should not allow it to provoke us into living our lives in fear, nurturing our own prejudices and hatred or shutting down legitimate voices.