Is The Media Helping The Terrorists In Iraq?

Published: Wed 13 Oct 2004 11:42 AM
David Miller Online
Is The Media Helping The Terrorists In Iraq?
Throughout the course of the Iraq war, the media from all regions of the world has never been far from the fighting whether it was covering the invasion itself or providing images of the insurgency that has followed. All sides in this war have used the media as a tool for promoting their message, for example, the Bush Administration and 10 Downing Street have constantly held press conferences and political rallies to justify the decision to go to invade Iraq. Such time in front of the camera has been invaluable as Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair seek to reassure their constituencies that it was in fact the intelligence services who were at fault and not their own desire to topple a regime that had long been a thorn in their sides. However, for those opposed to the Coalition and the new Iraqi government, the media has also proved a powerful weapon in not only projecting their message but also to try and cause outrage with their acts of terrorism, kidnappings and murder and groups, such as that led by Abu al-Zarqawi, have been very successful in achieving both objectives.
The groups who are carrying out the car bombings and parading captives such as Ken Bigley seek only one thing: publicity. Whatever the ransoms that governments have paid to secure the release of those fortunate enough to have survived their kidnapping ordeal is irrelevant, as money is not al-Zarqawi’s goal. His objective is to ensure that his actions, no matter how barbaric, are very much in the public domain and amidst all the bombings and US counter-offensives, the images of hostages paraded in front of masked gunmen and then killed are proving the most striking and the most emotive. It is these images that are likely to provoke the most emotion within the countries of the Coalition and possibility influence the policy direction of the governments allied to the United States and Britain. In hindsight, Ken Bigley never stood a chance at surviving his captivity and the fact that he remained alive for three weeks longer than the two Americans with whom he was seized, suggests that this was merely a ploy by al-Zarqawi and his group to maintain the public attention on their group and their cause.
The war in Iraq and such acts have placed the world’s media in a very position. For one thing, the Internet has meant that it impossible to prevent insurgent groups from promoting their message and from airing videos of them beheading captives after they have made propaganda statements denouncing their own governments. Assuming that the United States and Britain could control the outflow of reporting from Iraq, would they be able to do so given that they now claim that Iraq is a democratic country administered by a government for the people and not a dictator?
The answer does not lie with the US and British governments. The solution lies with the media networks around the world. Any Coalition attempt to limit the outflow of information will be viewed as nothing more than censorship and even though the images of car bombings and murder do not aid their cause, it is in the hands of the world’s editors and journalists not to publicise the acts of brutality that are being committed inside Iraq. There is no reason to suggest that media networks only air programmes and news reports that support the Coalition point of view. However, should they allow themselves to display images of people such as Nicholas Berg being killed? Is there a line that should be drawn and if so, how can it be enforced?
Despite such sickening acts, there is no method in preventing the terrorists from displaying their acts of brutality for all to see. Even if networks such as Al-Jazeera show restraint, the Internet offers the terrorists a vast and uncontrollable avenue in which they can demonstrate their murder and deliver their message. The World Wide Web has delivered so much of what they want to say and there is simply no way to prevent the publication of these images. Publicity in any form is not something that a government, broadcaster or public opinion can halt or allow to flow when they so choose. The publicising of terrorist acts and murders will continue irrespective of the sickening nature of them and will continue to provide to play into the hands of those who commit such acts. Abu al-Zarqawi has realised this and so to do those who follow his cause and the images of hostages pleading for their lives and then killed will still provide the more shocking images of this war.

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