A plea to journalists
In light of the ongoing Marawi crisis, media coverage of acts of terrorism and questions on what journalistic approach is appropriate in such circumstances must be examined.
We have to acknowledge the significant relationship that exists between media and terrorism. Terrorists have factored media into their tactics because the latter constitute a major portion of modern culture.
Nowadays, every terrorist act or like incident is given priority coverage by media. I understand that media feel an overwhelming responsibility to report major events. I also recognize the importance of freedom of expression and the citizen’s right to information as among the foundations of a democratic society. However, in reporting terrorist acts and related incidents, media must be ethical and carefully select the words and imagery they use lest they destroy the morale of government troops and boost, instead, that of the terrorists.
Mass media is unwittingly promoting violence and terrorist ideologies by sensationalizing the fear aspect in terrorist incidents—fear being the ultimate goal of terrorism. Mass media must bear in mind that repeated reports on traumatizing scenes and events could serve the terrorists’ designs. Terrorists understand pretty well media’s influence; so prolonged media attention and coverage is what they aim for. Through media, they want to impress the world as to how powerful and influential they are so that they can attract supporters and recruit like-minded people. Media coverage amplifies their perceived strength.
The recent Resorts World incident proved how irresponsible some reporters are. There was a frenzied rush to be the first to report to the public any information about the incident because of the pressure placed on them by unconventional news outlets like Facebook and Twitter. They should have checked first to make sure their stories were based on hard facts. They should have made clear that what they were reporting was a mere possibility yet to be confirmed. Because of the global reach of the internet, the Islamic State immediately claimed to be behind the incident (as it had done with even isolated incidents in other parts of the globe) to project a deceptive picture of its supposed global network and reach.
In the ongoing Marawi crisis, journalists must also bear in mind what is at stake in every report they make. In reporting terrorist and violent acts, it is imperative for all journalists to put the national interest first and foremost. Ratings surge and profits increase must not be their primary consideration.
This plea has become necessary because aside from reporters sometimes violating ethical considerations, the rhetoric of many reports on terrorism and violence could encourage the perpetrators of such acts or give them a fanciful sense of might against the state.
HEIDI DEL MUNDO, [email protected]
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