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Mitigating the Impact of Media Reporting of Terrorism

Terrorism and communication have always been inextricably linked. In order to achieve their goals, terrorists seek to promote their acts of violence to as wide an audience as possible, whether seeking to radicalise potential recruits, or aiming to spread fear through society they can stand to gain from media coverage of their acts.

This poses substantial challenges to journalists covering terrorist groups and their attacks. When reporting on terrorism, journalists run the risk of providing terrorists with the coverage they crave. Deepened by the speed of information delivery on social media, the ever-growing thirst for news in real time can leave journalists at risk of amplifying the terrorist threat. The challenges faced by media outlets and social media companies were highlighted in the aftermath of the 2019 mosque attacks in Christchurch.

Achievements

Project Closure

November 16, 2021

With the project coming to an end, we present a leaflet that gives an overview of the project and the key findings. We want to thank everyone who has worked with us on the project and our partner organisation, the European Commission Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (EU DEVCO), for making this project happen.

Project Leaflet Media Reporting Terrorism

Synthesis Report II

November 2, 2021

This report synthesises the findings of four country case study papers which explored the challenges for journalists in reporting on terrorism in conflict-affected or authoritarian societies in the Middle East/North Africa region. The paper examines the aims and methods of states (which, in the region, are usually authoritarian and repressive) and non-state actors, including terrorist groups. It goes on to analyse the merits of citizen and conflict-sensitive journalism as approaches to reporting terrorism in such challenging settings.

Synthesis Report I

June 14, 2021

This report synthesises the findings of three research reports, which explored media responses to three terrorist incidents – the Chibok kidnapping in Nigeria in 2014, al-Shabaab attacks in Nairobi in 2013 and 2019, and the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019. The paper discusses the findings and recommendations of the three studies, and develops some overarching recommendations on how to improve the media’s response to terrorist incidents.

Webinar

June 25, 2020

On  June 25 2020, ICCT hosted an online Live Briefing, titled “After the Attack: Crisis Communication Strategy and the Role of the Media”. Keynote was given by Cherie Blithe, Senior Communications Advisor, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of New Zealand, on Lessons from Christchurch. A panel discussion followed, in which Rukshana Rizwie – Journalist from Sri Lanka and Kayode Isaac Adebiyi – Correspondent, The News Agency of Nigeria drew lessons from South Asia and Africa.  

About the project

The Mitigating the Impact of Media Reporting of Terrorism project is led by ICCT, and funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).

Earlier in 2020, ICCT organised two roundtables, bringing together journalists working on the ground reporting on terrorism, and the second brought together traditional and social media representatives to discuss editorial challenges.

This project aims to produce evidence-based guidance and capacity building outputs based on original, context-sensitive research into the risks and opportunities in media reporting of terrorism and terrorist incidents. The role of media reporting on terrorism has been under investigated and is an underutilised dimension of a holistic counter-terrorism strategy. How the media reports on terrorism has the potential to impact counter-terrorism (CT) perspective positively or negatively.

Objectives

This project seeks first to investigate the impact of the reporting of terrorism on counter-terrorism (CT), and second to develop approaches to minimise the negative and to maximise the positive impacts.

To achieve this, the projects’ findings will be presented in a series of off- and online events and publications, covering a variety of questions, including, but not limited to How are media outputs manipulated or exploited by groups such as Islamic State (IS)?; What are the opportunities to manage/mitigate the impact of terrorism, and how do these differ between media types?; Should media reporting be proportionate to terrorist threats, and what impact does disproportionate media cover have (both over and under reporting)? And what guidelines exist for responsible media reporting on terrorism, and how effective are they?

Related Publications

The Experts

Meet the ICCT team members and our partners who contributed to this project.