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The Media & Terrorism

by on December 1, 2013

Terrorism – an activity that the masses are familiar with and in a lot of cases have experienced. Throughout history there have been various types & acts of terrorism but the fundamental definition of terrorism differs from person to person, from government to government and finally from analyst to analyst on an elemental and a national level. The oxford Dictionary defines terrorism as ‘life threatening actions perpetrated by politically motivated self-appointed sub state groups’  

CNN describes it as: Terrorists, by definition, want attention. They commit violent acts to cause fear — terror — and disrupt normal life, all in the hope of gaining attention for a cause.

Nevertheless the results that come from violently stimulated acts by terrorists cause social and national unrest regardless of the definition projected by any institution. It is clear to see that there is an interconnection between terrorists and the Media, from how the media portrays terrorists and to how terrorists themselves use the media to their advantage.

With ever increasing technology, terrorist organizations are discovering and utilizing new & innovative ways to further their agenda and to an extent, depend on the social media means in order to garner publicity towards their cause and their aims. It is said that one of the main reasons for these acts of terror are a form of rebellion and hatred for democratic styles of governance; paradoxically these organizations are using the media systems of democratic countries to forward their message.

There have been many instances where terrorist groups have broadcasted messages to the masses about their intentions using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and etc. one good example is when Osama Bin Laden created visual & audio tapes that were directly added to Arabic satellite television networks, particularly Al Jazeera.

While it is the media’s job to report issues & events such as the above mentioned, a lot of media outlets scram to broadcast the content. In such a competitive media environment it seems the more detailed, the more vivid & the less censored the message(s) and or image(s) the more coverage and the more attention it is given, so in effect, the news outlets are unintentionally supporting and furthering the terrorists message by broadcasting it to the masses because ultimately, that is what these terrorist organizations are seeking. It is then safe to say that terrorist organizations thrive on publicity and public fear. This does not mean that democratic media institutions are in co-operation with terrorist organizations, but it does suggest that they are obliviously manipulated by these ruthless organizations.

One of the main terrorist groups known as the ‘Al Qaeda’ movement is known to use the internet extensively and have a lot of presence on the worldwide web. Conversion & Radicalisation of internet users is very popular and is known to stem from their self-built websites. The ‘Al Qaeda’ now regards itself as a global movement and in fact I would take it a step further by saying that their philosophies have become an ideology. Just like any other contemporary ideas, they maximise on the global communications network to reach all nations.

These organizations are not only causing violent terror but they are spreading their ideals and also awakening the Muslim community by regular communication through video and audio recordings. The number of websites dedicated to Al Qaeda has grown significantly to thousands. Other groups such as the Taliban have been using twitter since the year 2011 also attaining just over 7,000 followers. In December 2011, the Somalia based Al Shabab is believed to have amassed tens of thousands of followers.

To conclude, the media institutions should play a moral role of broadcasting the news of current events but a lot of their material must be censored. The information should also not be biased towards a particular culture and or portray the majority of a particular type of people as the renegades especially in the western world. As we have seen throughout history and up until now, depending on how a particular race is portrayed, this conditions how the viewers will think, and this will more than likely drive their behaviour towards that race and this is a terrain that journalists, governments and the media should tread with caution.

With each idea and or message projected, it may also come with it a stigma attached. Essentially Terrorists don’t care about the stigma attached to them – but the innocent minority are the ones that are left to suffer with the stereo types that have been placed on them by the very media institutions the masses seem trust very much.






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  1. Very interesting look at how the media and terrorism co exist

  2. Hi,

    It is truth that terrorist organizations are using media to spread their message. However it would be hard for media to censure the material given by the terrorist organization. What would be censured and what would be not? Social media also seems as a problem when it comes to accounts run by the terrorist organizations. However, there is not much one can do about it. When one account is suspended another pops up under different name. Another problem is that even when the account of terrorist organization is suspended on social media, their work continues through their followers. The problem is that Twitter in particular does not actively monitor its content. Instead it relies on external reports of its policy violations. One can even go far and say that censure is the violation of democracy that the Western world is ‘fighting’ for.

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