The priority of journalists when developing guidelines is to understand what terrorism is and to maintain journalists’ impartiality. The safety of journalists is essential. Adequate training and necessary caution should be the central consideration for any journalists reporting on terrorism.
When reporting terrorism, journalists must protect victims and vulnerable persons by ensuring that reporting does not worsen the situation. Journalists are encouraged to continue reporting in the aftermath of a terror incident. In addition, they should monitor any comment and feedback on social media as part of a strategy to prevent re-igniting acts of terrorism driven by political and ideological causes.
We understand terrorism as any action or strategic intention to cause death, serious bodily harm and widespread fear to civilians for ideological and political reasons.
Journalists are encouraged to:
- Differentiate between terrorism and a criminal act of violence.
- Maintain journalistic values of impartiality, fairness, and accuracy when reporting on acts of terror.
- Seek appropriate training prior to engaging with covering acts of terror.
- Avoid publishing photographs or broadcast images of acts of terror that have the potential to cause public panic and revive traumatic experiences.
- Avoid providing a platform to those propagating and glorifying violence based on political ideologies.
- Give justice to victims of terror acts and allow time to report on their legitimate grievances.
- Try to avoid irrelevant religious and political attribution including the use of images of religious symbols when identifying perpetrators of terrorist attacks.
- Distinguish between ‘alleged’ or ‘suspected’ perpetrators of terrorist attacks when reporting upon their arrest.
- Consider your own physical and psychological safety when reporting on terrorism.
- Protect the identity of children and family members of the perpetrators of terror.
- Seek multiple opinions to avoid contributing to a polarisation of existing political conflict.
- Follow-up on the aftermath of terrorist attacks and try to tackle the complexity of the situation.
- Objectively consider the credibility of sources before presenting them as ‘experts’.
- Critically assess the content of social media posts before rushing to report on or share them.
- Moderate comments on social media in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, to avoid inciting further acts of terror.
Watch the EJN’s Aidan White explain how to use the test in this video.
Read the Action Plan on the Public Media Alliance website