24th May 2017
By Tom Law

The role of media actors in confronting terrorism

On 19 June 2017 the Council of Europe held  a “Colloquium on the role of media actors in confronting terrorism” in Strasbourg bringing together media actors, audio-visual regulatory bodies, media self-regulatory bodies, government representatives, civil society representatives and academics.

The EJN took part in the event in the following ways:

The EJN’s Director of Campaigns and Communications, Tom Law, took part on the panel about the “Use of digital media and the rights and responsibilities of actors on the Internet”.

Chris Elliott, the former readers’ editor of the Guardian and EJN board member took part in the panel on “Reporting on terrorism acts and violence: dilemmas and challenges”. Chris dealt extensively with this issue during his time at the Guardian.

Earlier this year UNESCO published a handbook for journalists related to the coverage of terrorism, authored by EJN adviser Jean-Paul Marthoz.

The publication is available in French and English.

According to UNESCO:

The publication aims to raise journalists’ awareness of the need to exercise caution and examine carefully who they quote, what messages they relay and how they contextualize the information they give, despite the pressures to win readers, viewers and listeners.

Available in English and French and over 110 pages, the report examines the challenges of balanced reporting on the inevitably volatile and emotionally charged subject of terrorism.

In the words of UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Frank La Rue, terrorists’ ultimate purpose is to “cleave society down the centre, turning people against each other, including by provoking repression, discrimination and discord. They aim to simultaneously prove themselves correct in their predictions of widespread persecution and to attract new followers to their violent cause. They seek to create a mood of defeatism in the face of attacks and polarised reactions.”

With numerous examples taken from recent events, the handbook also addresses issues pertaining to the way journalists report on the victims of terror, handle rumours, report on the authorities’ investigations, conduct interviews with terrorists and report on their trials.

A separate chapter is dedicated to issues pertaining to the safety of journalists, including kidnappings, and traumas that may be incurred by reporters.