Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Media coverage of terrorism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Regulating role of social media against organized terrorism

  • In a conference of chiefs of Anti-Terrorism Squads, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval referred to former UK PM Margaret Thatcher on her remarks on role of media against terrorism.

Role of media in combating terrorism

  • Media is a very important organ to fight terrorism.
  • As Margaret Thatcher said, if terrorists take action and the media is quiet, the terrorism will end.
  • Terrorists terrorize people. If media does not write, nobody would come to know.

The context

  • In June 1985, militants affiliated with Hezbollah hijacked Trans World Airlines flight 847, taking more than 150 passengers hostage.
  • A US Navy diver was killed, and the hostages were released in batches in a prisoner exchange with Israel.
  • The hijacking got huge media coverage across the world.
  • On 15 July 1985, Thatcher spoke about the hijacking where she said that we must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend.

What Margaret Thatcher said

  • In our societies we do not believe in constraining the media, still less in censorship.
  • The media should agree among themselves a voluntary code of conduct, a code under which they would not say or show anything which could assist the terrorists’ morale or their cause.
  • For newspapers and television, acts of terrorism inevitably make good copy and compelling viewing.
  • The hijacker and the terrorist thrive on publicity: without it, their activities and their influence are sharply curtailed.
  • There is a fearful progression, which the terrorists exploit to the full.
  • They see how acts of violence and horror dominate the newspaper columns and television screens of the free world.
  • They see how that coverage creates a natural wave of sympathy for the victims and pressure to end their plight no matter what the consequence. And the terrorists exploit it.
  • Violence and atrocity command attention. We must not play into their hands.
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