The Media’s Presentation of Terrorism

Terrorism is a term that has generated a lot of debate in the modern world. This can be attributed to the incidents of terrorism that have hit the world in the recent past. The subject is of importance because it is concerned with the human welfare. Perhaps one of the major reasons why the subject is popular with most media houses is to establish the motives behind terrorist attacks. Whenever, the word terrorism is mentioned, it makes people panic and they are also seized by fear. To some other people, the subject brings back memories of their loved ones who perished in a terrorist attack or in a form of bomb explosion.

The oldest term that is used to describe terrorism is ‘Reign of Terror’. The equivalent of the term reign of terror in the modern world is ‘Terrorism’. The term ‘Reign of Terror’ was coined up during the period of French Revolution. U.S carried out a study in 1988. It was discovered that there are more than ninety definitions of terrorism and they are still in use up to this day. It is important to note that a difference must be made clear between acts of crime in most countries and terrorism acts though most people use the two terms interchangeably. ‘The term terrorism’ is also clearly stated and defined by the laws of the country.

There are various types of terrorism. In 1975, a body was formed to look into the issues of terrorism. This advisory committee was supposed to come up with different types of terrorisms and their definitions besides their role of a watchdog. The various types of terrorist acts were also supposed to be classified in not less than six categories. The first type of terrorism is disorder at civil level (civil disorder). This is defined as a type of violence which is collective and is meant to interfere with peace, stability and security as well as interfere with how the society functions. The second category is political terrorism, which is described as a form of violent and criminal acts, which are designed chiefly to bring about anxiety and fear in a society or to a section of society. This violent behavior is politically motivated. The other category of terrorism is not politically motivated and it is called ‘non political terrorism’. This type of terrorism is not done for political reasons but it is meant to scare and coerce people with the objective of gaining as an individual or collectively but not for political gains.

The other type of terrorism is ‘quasi-terrorism’. This type of terrorism is not meant to cause pain and suffering to the victims though it involves violent crimes, which are almost the same as those ones of ‘genuine terrorism’. The ‘quasi terrorist’ however uses the same methods and approach as those ones of a real terrorist, which of course bring about same results and responses. The aim and objectives of a ‘quasi terrorist’ are however different from those of a ‘real terrorist’. The other type of terrorism is ‘limited political terrorism’. This type of terrorism defines it as terrorism acts done for political or ideological reasons though not to take control of the nation or state. The last type of terrorism is ‘official or state terrorism’. This refers to those nations where their rule is harsh and oppresses civilians and causes fear amongst them.

Groups, states or individuals perpetrate terrorism acts. However, the most obvious kind of terrorism is perpetrated by secretive and small cells, which are seriously motivated to dedicate themselves to a particular course of action. The example of terrorism acts are ‘9/11’, ‘London underground bombing’ and ‘2002 Bali bombing’

Terrorism can be sponsored by a state through provision of funds to organizations responsible for terrorism acts, permitting terrorism acts, utilizing its resources, for, example, military to carry out such acts of violence.

The attacks of terrorism are normally attempted to heighten publicity and fear. There is wide use of poison and explosives. There is serious worry and concern over use of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and participants who are taken trough lessons of terrorism by their leaders. The use of technical and highly developed telecommunication systems and the high level of crime organization cannot be ignored also.

UN’S Definition of Terrorism
The United Nations has its own definition of terrorism. In 2004, U.N.S.C (United Nations Security Council) wrote a report and they defined terrorism as any form of behavior or act with the motive of causing death or serious physical harm to non-combatants or civilians with an aim of causing fear to a group of people or to force the government or any other organization recognized internationally to carry out or refrain from carrying out an act of any kind.

Media and Terrorism
Any act or item that is newsworthy is always important to the media. To determine whether a certain story or item is newsworthy, the media uses the following yardsticks. These are magnitude, proximity (nearness), human interest and human conflicts. The debate on terrorism is therefore of interest to any media house because it possesses all the above-mentioned yardsticks.

Terrorism as an act of crime and violence is of great magnitude. This is because it deals with mass destruction of properties as well as human lives. The magnitude of the acts of crime and the extent of suffering that people go through is too much. In this regard such news receives equally enough attention from the media. Terrorism generates human interest. The psychological fear it impacts on people causes a lot of concern and hence people need to be well informed about it and the measures they should take to keep themselves safe from eminent danger.

Terrorism is newsworthy because  the acts of crime take place close to the people (nearness to the people). Most countries in the world have been affected in one way or the other by these acts of terrorism. Whenever such an act happens, in any country, the nearness of the act to the people generates a lot of interest. The media plays its informative role of making people aware of terrorism acts. Media is always quick to report on issues that bring about conflicts. Terrorism causes a great deal of misunderstanding between the victims, the government and the perpetrators. In a bid to reconcile all the parties concerned, the issue usually receives a lot of media attention. Other reasons why the issue sparks a lot of interest is the fact the terrorism is ‘unlawful’, and ‘deliberate targeting of non-combatants’ and political motivations.

The exposure of the media is said to be the main goal of perpetrators of acts of terrorism, to air issues that should not be given attention by the media. At some point, some people believe media is being exploited and manipulated. There are some individuals who look at it as a sign of manipulated media, because in many cases it does not welcome new points of perspective other than what it gives. It therefore tends to bring about some bias and prejudice in reporting,

(Watson 195). Apart from getting the news from the media, there is usually no other medium of communication. As a result, media houses in most cases censor some organizations who have been probably involved in acts of terror. They do this by restraining themselves or by regulation. The aim is to discourage crimes of terror. The major threat with this kind of censorship is that some organizations may be encouraged to carry out more serious terrorism acts so that the media can air them.

There reaches a point when the terrorist stops to control the activities of the media. At this point the violence might go a notch higher. This point is beyond which a terrorist has already shown symptoms of the ‘media gestalt’. We therefore understand terrorism as related to the media innately.

Generally, there is a lot of inconsistency in the way terrorist attacks are reported by the media, especially if it was ‘state terrorism’. It is worth to note that the way the media reports acts of terrorism is to an extent influenced by the politics of the day. For instance, when the state has funded terrorist organizations, the state controls what the media says. Most terrorist crimes are perpetrated for political reasons. When the government uses terrorism as political outfit to express their dissatisfaction or as a means of bringing about the change that is needed, the media is left at the mercy of the government. The political fear inflicted on the media hinders their reporting; since the civilians will only get to hear what the government wants them to know.

Conclusion

From the discussion above, we have seen that the media presents terrorism as a great evil against humanity and this evil should not be tolerated any ones time. There is a lot of human suffering, brought about by terrorism, ranging from serious injuries to deaths. However, to wipe out this barbaric crime, the media has the responsibility to report terrorist attacks in a balanced and sensitive manner. By withholding some information, they give power to the perpetrators of the crime. It is also the responsibility of the government to discourage terrorist attacks, whether with good or bad intentions. This is because the reactions of terrorist attack are the same in all types of terrorism. Even where the act was not meant to cause physical harm it does. A responsible press should allow different viewpoints. This is a very important function of the media. A clear picture of the incidents should be aired or written by the media and it should stop deviating from the real issues. Some people have come out strongly to criticize the way media reports issues that are sensitive to human welfare.

They say that the coverage by the press has led to misinformed citizens and it has left the people confused. Stephen D, who is a media researcher, says that when analysis of media is done there are controversies that have emerged. These have got to do with the reports against terrorism. The inaccuracies and inadequate facts are common phenomena, which are normally as a result of organizing news with the intention of retracting or changing the news reporting.

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