The media is a powerful actor in terrorism. How important the media is during terrorist incidents is a matter of constant argument (Atwater, 1987; Jenkins, 2003). The understanding of the connections between terrorism and the media must found through broader analysis of; the power of the media ( Shaw and McCombs, 1972), especially in trouble situations ( Arno, 1984); the way journalists, editors, authorities, and terrorists relate to each other; empirically analyzing the media; and the link between terrorism and public opinion .Since the early 1970s, researchers have examined the role of the news media in connection with terrorism and have found out how the media interact with terrorist.
TERRORIST AND THE USE OF MEDIA
Many terrorist groups or organization are very aware and able to understand other people`s feeling in the timing of news stories and audience dynamics then structure their actions accordingly (Weimann and Winn, 1994). Several examples include ; the Westgate bombing in Kenya ,the 1974 kidnapping of Patricia Hearst by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the 1977 Baader-Meinhof gang suicide in Stammheim prison and the and kidnapping of the Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, by the Red Brigades,1983 Armenian Revolutionary Army attack against the Turkish ambassador in Lisbon, 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Poland, 1988),1972 kidnapping of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics that were held in Munich whereby Black September members realized that the world’s major media organizations would be at the event and decided to use the incident for attention. Also, the 1979 Iranian activists’ taking over the American embassy in Teheran brought world’s attention on the power of Islamic fundamentalism through stretching the event over 444 days (Sick, 1985). The most significant is the 9/11 terrorist attacks that seen to have been timed so that the media would capture and show the second plane hitting the World Trade Center towers.
Terrorist organizations or groups are ‘owning’ the media and taking over it. Some terrorist groups own broadcast outlets. This is why, in the wake of 9/11, there was increase in security at television stations in the American cities. The government and the communication organization companies executives recognized that terrorists can take these radio or television outlets.
Through resources and few threats to security permit, terrorist organizations have started their own media stations (Weinberg and Davis, 1989). Moreover, some established media outlets act as terrorist sympathizers by appearing overly accommodating to some terrorist groups .During the aftermath of 9/11 ,AlJazeera contain broadcast videotapes of Osama bin Laden giving a warning the West of impending terrorist attacks. Also after the Westgate bombing in Kenya , the Alshabaab of Somalia claimed responsibility and warned the Kenyan government of another attack if they do not withdraw their army from Somalia through the media. Through the advancement of technology terrorist groups now have their own websites, which are cost effective and portable (Weimann, 2004).
DEMERITS OF MEDIA COVERAGE ON TERRORISM
Self-censorship media personalities sometimes are blackmailed and intimidated while trying to access terrorists (Weinberg and Davis, 1989). When journalist encounter terrorists , terrorist give out conditions under which they will speak hence cause different media to report differently. This is to ensure their own safety, as some journalist have been kidnapped and killed in their efforts to talk with terrorists groups (Grieset and Mahan, 2003). For example,Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl, while in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2002, received information that a high ranking member of al Qaeda was willing to talk with him but unfortunately it was a trap to kill him. Editorial discretion indicates that just because a good news story exists, doesn
t indicate that it will be assigned by an editor or producer (Boyd-Barrett, 2003), nor if a story is written or shot doesnt mean that it will be published or broadcast (Fishman, 1980). An understanding exists or is found between journalists and their various editors or producers. The connection affects the result of articles or stories on terrorism. When deciding when and how a story should be run, most editors or producers make decisions about the reliability and newsworthiness of the piece, the sources, competing articles, and other scheduled sources (Ross, 2000).
Few specialists focusing on terrorism is a bigger challenge in the media sector . Most media station are divided through the expertise of journalist in particular areas. The working conditions ensure a reporter’s accessibility to sources, type of relationship the reporter has with his or her editors media organizations have journalist who specialize solely in covering terrorism. A good example is Mohamed Ala of Kenya and Josh meyer of the Los Angeles Times who specialize in covering stories on terrorism.
Bad information given to reporters by national security agencies. Many stories published or broadcast in the press originated or come from ofﬁcial government sources. According to Jenkins (2003),most materials that are found in the media can be traced to a small number of ofﬁcial agencies. The reliance media on law enforcement sources is because national security agencies shoul be best-informed group in the countries since they access a lot of evidence. These security agencies may act in self interest through strategic leaks (Jenkins, 2003). During the 9/11, the federal agencies scrambled, hoped to prove to the American public that they were not sleeping on their job.
News media obstruct counter-terrorist efforts often , the news media have inadvertently blocked anti-terrorist efforts to resolve hostage type incidents. Press corps ‘have entered the incident and secured zones, and hostage and rescue forces have been seen on live television as they entered in for an assault’ (White, 2003). In the circumstance, terrorists only need to turn on a television or radio newscast to gain the upper hand. Examples of this include: 1977 Hanaﬁ Muslim takeover of the B’nai B’rith building in Washington, DC , and the Westgate terror incident in Kenya. The fear of terrorists’ inﬂuence on the media has resulted in a number of controls established by law enforcement, national security, and media organizations ( Jones and Miller, 1979; Scanlon, 1981, 1982; Kehler et , 1982) . The government should intervene in this sort of media coverage, and the media should regulate themselves. the media and the public are appropriately quick to cry censorship when the government propose some intervention ( Schlesinger, 1981). This because in many democracies, freedom of speech is valued.
Barnhurst (1991) gives two models that try indicate interaction between terrorism and the media. They are ;culpable-media model which explains that the media complete a vicious circle. Through reporting on terrorist attacks and activities, the media play a part in sending terrorist messages to a big audience therefore encouraging them to carry out more terrorist attacks, that will be reported by media stations hence creating a vicious circle, whereby terrorist organizations carry out attacks, that are reported by the media, and cause more conflicts.
In the model, the media is seen as a major cause of terrorist attacks. The other model proposed by Barnhurst (1991) is vulnerable media model, which according to the model the media is viewed as a victim of terrorism and not a cause terrorism. It explain that, although the media could seize covering terrorism, it wouldn
t be enough to cause terrorist activities to end. Terrorists organizations not only use one media outlet for transferring information. This is a result of competition among current media system (Barnhurst, 1991). Media stations always try to be the first to cover a news story , that cause them to draw bigger audiences to their particular news feed (Glüpker, 2008). This is because of increase in competition among media stations to cover news very quickly (Kushner, 2000). This can result to journalist underestimating the consequences of reporting and may cause incorrect interpretations of the activities of terrorist groups . Competition on the media to report news that involve terrorism do not imply direct control by terrorist organizations of the media. But the media should be responsible on the manipulative actions of terrorist activities (Wilkinson, 1997).TERROR IN WESTGATE`. The main reason why the media covers items concerning terrorism is to increase the number of their viewers. Of course, there are always other factors that play a role in such decisions, such as personal interest or social responsibility. The media surely understands that terrorism has an news value, and that therefore it must be covered, irrespective of audience satisfaction. But it also makes sense for the media to respond to the demand of the audience for news about terrorist organizations (Wilkinson, 1997). The way in which news is formed is of great importance. Editors should use the short amount of time they have to assess which information to publish, and how. With high-impact events or topics that the audience may find highly disturbing, it is important that editors of print or broadcast copy give a sound interpretation of the . For example during the Westgate incident the Nation Media group newspaper in Kenya printed a horrible image as the cover image that provoked the public . Terrorist activities have a great influence on the cultural, political and personal bias of the editor (Martin, 2010). There is always a tradeoff between providing a sound interpretation of a subject, and having a “breaking news” headline. The rush to publish or broadcast can cause unnecessary fears, while at the same time enabling terrorists to get the media coverage they so desperately want (Martin, 2010). The media should be responsible while covering terrorist activities . It is because of this responsibility that forms the basis for the following critical remarks. It is important to recognize that the media, instead of covering news information, are actually spreading terrorist propaganda. Secondly, it has been noted by media critics that, in certain cases, the objectivity of the journalists reporting terrorist activities is questionable.
Martin (2010) observed that there is a prevailing opinion in modern society that “information is power.” Terrorist attacks are often committed in order to gain the attention of the media, and thus draw more public attention to the groups that commit the attacks. The media is always trying to please their audiences. Television stations are trying to attract as many viewers as possible, newspapers try to attract readers, and websites try to attract visitors. Dramatic incidents or stories with emotional aspects, and “negative” stories are often topics that readers find interesting. Other kinds of stories that tend to draw high levels of interest are those that are exciting , and affect directly the audience (Glüpker, 2008). A news item covering a terrorist action or attack is a typical example of a topic satisfying all these requirements. This information suggests that the media are dependent on terrorism because of its supposed news value. Example after the Westgate attack the cover story of the major newspaper was
HOW TO COUNTER THE LINK BETWEEN TERRORISIM AND MEDIA
There are several ways in which governments in democratic societies may react to media coverage of terrorism. Wilkinson divides them into three main policy options (Wilkinson 2006, 154-157). The first is the policy of laissez-faire . This policy assumes that no specific steps should be taken concerning media coverage of terrorism at all, regardless of the situation or circumstances. Wilkinson suggests that the approach is likely to cause more attacks which could endanger people’s lives, saying that “the dangers of this approach are fairly obvious: sophisticated and media-wise terrorist organizations will exploit the enormous power of the media to enhance their ability to create a climate of fear and disruption, to amplify their propaganda of the deed to publicize their cause or to force concessions of ransoms out of the government or out of companies or wealthy individuals.” (Ibid., 155).
The second policy option is a form of media censorship of statutory regulation . Despite the fact that freedom of speech and political debate is at the very core of the concept of a democratic society, restrictions on the freedom of press and expression might appear as a necessary measure in the fight against terrorism. If the media refuse to cover acts of terrorism, ultimately terrorists will disappear, supporters of this regulation measures argue this way. Wilkinson points out that many responsible media organizations favor the policy options, that he labels voluntary self-restraint . Numerous major media organizations have adopted guidelines – often verbally and not in written on how to act and work in situations of crisis caused by terrorist acts.
Any attempt among democratic countries to choose Wilkinson’s second policy option, that break or weaken the relationship between the media and terrorism through government action, is likely to cause debate. Nevertheless, it has often been tried, by several governments. During the Westgate attack in Kenya the government after sometimes restricted the media from covering the incident and giving reports without consulting it , some member of the public were pleased while other thought that the government was covering something. In the United States, the American government has attempted on several occasions to tell the media what to publish and what not. For example, shortly after the September 11 attacks, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage contacted the board of the Voice of America, a federally supported international station, and asked the executives not to air an interview with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. According to a State Department official: “Voice of America is not the Voice of Mullah Omar and not the Voice of the Taliban.” Initially the board of Voice of America gave in and blocked the broadcast of the interview, but eventually, after heavy protests of the editors, the program was aired some days later (Washington Post 2001a). The incident provoked angry reactions by journalists and NGOs. In another example, Condoleezza Rice and other officials from the US Administration asked major American television stations, just after 9/11, to stop airing Bin Laden messages, because they may incite violence against Americans, or even contain secret messages for sleeper cells. The television channels agreed. According to one media watchdog organization this was “a silky form of censorship” (BBC 2001).. Commentator Michael Kinsley noted in an editorial in the Washington Post some months after the attacks that “]journalists found it exceedingly difficult to challenge the government because the September attack was such a monstrous crime. Journalists who might be inclined to dissent feared the wrath of their readers and their editors and publishers, possibly leading to loss of their job. Such social pressures transformed White House requests into commands.” (Graber 2003, 36).
Another example is the Russian effort to stop ABC from airing the aforementioned interview with Chechen terrorist leader Shamil Basayev. The Russians summoned the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission with no ambassador was present at the time and denied ABC access to its Defense
In the United Kingdom in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, several efforts were made to prevent the BBC from airing interviews or statements from terrorists. For instance, in 1985, a documentary was canceled by the BBC board, after political pressure by Thatcher’s government, because it contained an interview with an IRA leader. Before this, the British government had on several occasions threatened to sue the BBC under the so-called “Prevention of Terrorism Act”. The government never prosecuted the BBC. In many cases the threats themselves turned out to be enough and the show in question was canceled, or internal controls were tightened. Although often BBC journalists protested, the board would not budge (Vieira 1991, 73-74, 79-81).
The British government, however, went further than this. In 1988 a ban was imposed on the broadcast of all interviews with terrorists and their supporters. This time, though, the BBC did not comply, at least to the spirit of the new ban. Indeed, the terrorists themselves did not appear on television, but if the BBC deemed it necessary to broadcast the terrorists’ words, it hired actors to pose as terrorists, reading their statements (Ockrent 2006,; Hoffman 2006, ). Although this broke the British effort to keep the media on a tight leash in the 80s and early 90s, Ian Cram notes that even before 9/11 and the London attacks, the definition of terrorism within British law was expanded, which resulted in an even more stringent framework for media concerning terrorism coverage (Cram 2006, 339-340).
The United Kingdom is not the only country whereby the government attempted to pressure the media to change their reporting on terrorism. Former Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, who reportedly had never contacted the media himself during his term, suddenly called the high ranking media executives after the Madrid attacks, to tell them that ETA was responsible for the attacks (Ibid., 337). Earlier, in 1998 and 2003, Spain forced two Basque newspapers and a radio station to close, supposedly because they assisted ETA (Ibid., 34)
Biernatzki (2002) questions about the appropriate role of the media should be. This by citing, a Chinese author, Lu Xun who said that “the role of the writer is to criticize” and he continues to explain that twenty-first century journalists heed these words. One contemporary media critic is Dutch journalist Mark Blaisse. He thinks that the media has been influenced by all kinds of outside pressures which has resulted to inaccurate reporting. It is capable for a powerful rich person to buy a media station and use it for his/her benefit. Therefore it is also easy for terrorist groups to use their fund and buy media stations and use it for their own benefit.
ARGUMENTS ON CENSORSHIP
It is being argued that if the media does not report on the topics, rumors may be spread. Lack of public awareness of terrorist activities may result to the public from not fully understanding the political situation. Hence causing people to live in ignorance ,and difference in information about crises all over the world. According to Dale van Atta, shutting off media from an independent press result to rumors which transmit more fear and misinformation than responsible journalists do by reporting accurate news on terrorist events (Van Atta 1998) . The criticism is enhanced by the rapid growth of the Internet hence, people can now get their information elsewhere and may cause baseless rumors.
This issue paper has reviewed the power and demerits of the media’s relationship with terrorists organizations, and sources. Terrorists use media as a important tool to communicate their message and gain attention.. Electronic communications (particularly the Internet) are of increasing importance to people today and the terrorist organizations. Terrorist can use many tools of mass communication for their interest. The interaction between terrorists and the news media will not decrease, and will increase in more years to come. Hence there is a relationship between terrorists and the media. This relationship has risen and intensified because of the increase in the mass media. We need to acknowledge that terrorists or the media do not depend fully on one another, but can to a large extent profit from one another.
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