By Diana Moukalled
3 August 2016
Le Monde and other French media outlets
have decided to no longer publish photos of terrorists, because they want to
deprive terrorist organizations of the potential effect of glorification. This
means if an attack similar to those in Nice and Rouen happens, photos of the
perpetrators will not be published, and we will not know much about what led
them to commit atrocities.
Is it really possible to no longer publish
photos and biographies of perpetrators, particularly in our open world where
photos and information are circulated by smart phones before they are broadcast
and published by media outlets? Such a decision may have been up for discussion
10 years ago, but in today’s world it seems like surrender to the massive chaos
of information via social media.
These statements are not targeted against
the seriousness of the decision, which many French media outlets have rejected
and deemed useless. The central problem is how the media should deal with these
attacks. This discussion will not be set right before we finalize our stance on
the term “terrorism,” and on the repercussions of the media’s stances on
perpetrators and approach toward them.
Terrorism has dozens of definitions. The
term is used to condemn the violence we reject, not all forms of violence. When
people who belong to a group we disagree with are murdered, it is not always
viewed as terrorism. There are endless examples of this in the Middle East, but
this double standard also exists in the West, including France.
The term is used to condemn the violence we
reject, not all forms of violence. When people who belong to a group we
disagree with are murdered, it is not always viewed as terrorism
Horrific crimes must be condemned, but
describing them as terrorism while excluding what certain military forces are
doing is unjust. Are coalition airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians in
Manbij, Syria, less horrific than the murder of civilians in Nice or elsewhere?
Is the massacre that Satoshi Uematsu committed in Japan, where he killed 18
patients in their sleep in a care home, a terrorist attack?
Perhaps the media should stop using the
word terrorism, because it has been horrifically misused to distort and
manipulate the truth. The term has even been exploited to present biased
stances to the public, instead of providing information about an incident
itself. Any act of murder is terrorism, regardless of the aims and cause of the
murderer. Therefore, the media’s handling of any crime must be based on the
Getting to know Uematsu is as important as
getting to know Adel Kermiche, who killed the priest in France. Their
biographies and experiences are necessary for public opinion and
decision-makers, as they provide knowledge that helps us understand how to
prevent similar crimes. Knowledge and a calm approach can clarify what is going
Accuracy and attention when broadcasting
sensitive news does not mean the media should present the audience with what it
wants to hear - by doing so; we would end up with an incomplete, inaccurate and