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Developing International Anti-Terrorism Laws and the challenges to Media Organisations

Introduction

There is a close interrelationship and interaction between media and terrorist organisations. Terror attacks and activities attracts the attention of media and at the same time, media inadvertently offers space to terrorists organisations to spread their propaganda, message and advertisement of their actions. The role of media and its interaction with terror has been of some scholarly interest because the relationship between terrorism and media is seen to be a symbiotic relationship (Nacos, 2002). It has even been said that there is a mutually beneficial relationship between terrorist groups and the media because while terror attacks provide news to the media and attracts audience, the media itself provides opportunities to the terrorists for garnering attention and spreading propaganda (Rohner & Frey, 2007). This relationship between media and terrorism also presents certain challenges for the media, particularly if the use of media is seen as lending to the objectives of the terror organisation. One of these objectives is publicity as noted in literature:

“While publicity has been a central goal of most terrorists throughout history, the means of communication have advanced from word-of-mouth accounts by witnesses to news reporting in the print press, radio, newsreel, and eventually television, which has greatly enhanced terrorists’ propaganda capabilities. More recently, the World Wide Web has emerged as a new and the perhaps the most potent propaganda vehicle for terrorist groups and “lone wolves,” as well as for the advocates of political violence.” “Without massive news coverage the terrorist act would resemble the proverbial tree falling in the forest: if no one learned of an incident, it would be as if it had not occurred” (Nacos, Accomplice or Witness? The Media’s Role in Terrorism, 2000).

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Therefore, one challenge for media would be that it may be required to regulate or self-regulate the content that is published on their platforms. This challenge can be compounded if international anti-terror law develops further to regulate the ways in which media reports terror events. Indeed, this has already happened with the then Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2001, called the Emir of Qatar when the war in Afghanistan first broke out and seeking his cooperation in moderating the views of Al Jazeera news channel (Price, 2002). The American administration viewed the Al Jazeera channel to be hostile to it and were concerned that the coverage to the terror groups may be positive to Osama Bin Laden and detrimental to the Americans (Price, 2002). Similarly, in the UK there have been concerns about how anti-terror laws can be challenging to the media and the journalists; this was the case when the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which was enacted to increase police powers with relation to terrorism and is part of the discussion later in this dissertation. This dissertation explores and evaluates the challenges faced by media organisations due to the developing international anti-terrorism laws. The dissertation conducts a literature review and based on the review of the current literature, the dissertation reports the findings and conclusion. The findings are aimed at answering the question of what challenges are faced by the media organisations due to the anti-terrorism laws. The research questions that this dissertation seeks to answer are what anti-terrorism laws, the effects of anti-terrorism laws on the media, and the defining of terrorism in the international law.

Literature Review

Anti-terrorism laws

Anti-terrorism laws have been necessitated by the growth of terror ideology and increase in terror attacks, with increasing intensity and civilian casualties (Neumann, 2009) and access to more potent weaponry and information technology making counter-terrorism investigation more complex and increasing the need to respond to this phenomenon with laws that allow detention of individuals considered to be threat in this context (Pearse, 2015). Consequently, anti-terrorism laws in countries like the UK and the United States have focussed on defining the problem and providing solutions like pre-charge detention to aid investigative agencies in the task of preventing attacks.

In the UK, the principal legislation is the Terrorism Act 2000 and other laws include Anti-Terrorism and Crime Security Act 2001, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, and Terrorism Prevention and Investigative Measures Act 2011. The Lord Lloyd report on terrorism laws is an important step in the UK anti-terrorism law because this report led to the passage of a comprehensive and permanent anti-terrorism law in the form of the Terrorism Act 2000 (Lloyd, 1996).

The Terrorism Act 2006, which was enacted in the aftermath of the London bombings in 2005 is more closely related to the field of journalism and media because under this law Section 1 creates the offence of ‘encouragement of terrorism’ which is defined as making "a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences."

Therefore, direct or indirect encouragement that glorifies the commission or preparation of terror acts or offences is punishable under the law. Later in this dissertation, the concerns of the media with respect to this provision are also discussed. What can be noted at this point is that there is an offence in the law that makes it punishable to publish certain statements that can be taken to be glorification of the offence of terrorism or the acts of terrorism.

In the aftermath of the terror attacks on the American soil in 2001, there have been responses by different international and regional organisations to terrorism. The United Nations Security Council responded by passing the Resolution 1368 in which they called for increased cooperation between states to confront and defeat terrorism; the resolution was adopted by the Security Council at its 4370th meeting, on 12 September 2001. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) reasserted Article 5 of its Charter, stating that any aggression against any NATO member country would be considered as aggression towards all members. The Council of Europe (CoE) passed the ‘Recommendation Rec (2001) 11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states concerning guiding principles on the fight against organised crime’ on 19 September 2001 which required fast responses in terms of state cooperation regarding criminal matters. These responses to terrorism were made in the immediate aftermath of the terror attack in the United States in September 2001. Some responses made in the UK itself were considered problematic in view of the effect on journalists as noted in the following observation:

“During their daily functions, journalists; reporters; investigators; or any media professionals might be considered to be offenders if they were found in possession of ‘sensitive’ material or were suspected of distributing ‘terrorist publications’. If journalists did have documents which were considered to be terrorist ‘statements’, whether in writing or in any other form of communication, they would be regarded automatically as circulating ‘terrorist publications’” (Yousef, 2016, p. 143)

As Yousef (2016) points out, the matter is more problematic because the term ‘terrorist publication’ in Section 1(3) of the Terrorism Act 2006, which may be open to interpretation and may in some cases also be used to take action against the journalists. Journalists may at times be in possession of material that may be considered to be direct or indirect encouragement to them to commit acts of terrorism or be used in the commission or planning of terrorism acts by the people to whom it is made available, even where they do not endorse these materials but may have these materials in their possession due to their reporting on this material (Yousef, 2016).

Defining terrorism in national and international law

Terrorism has been a difficult term to define and consequently there is absence of universal consensus on terrorism definition (Schmid & Jongman). Controversy related to defining terrorism is due to the tendency of the definer to take a subjective point of view (Greene, 2017). Generally speaking however, terrorism is defined in the context of it being political violence directed against a nation or a people (Greene, 2017). Common themes in defining terrorism include use of violence, motivation to instill fear in the victims and audience, and intensity of the attacks (Neumann, 2009; McCann, 2006).

It is essential to legally define terrorism because this shapes the legal responses to the phenomenon within the state (Wilkinson, 2006). At the same time, there is some academic consensus that advises caution against defining terrorism too broadly as this can lead to the states being overly oppressive of individual rights and liberties under the pretext of counter-terrorism (Wilkinson, 2006).

It is also worth noting that counter-terrorism laws often posit a conflict between security of victims and liberty of terror accused and that the “conflict between liberty and security in the context of terrorism is one between two equally significant human rights values, one of which cannot take precedence over the other” (Sottiaux, 2010, p. 8). This is important because counter-terrorism laws often contain provisions related to pre-charge detention, which a terror suspect can be subject to for a limited time period even without framing of charges; therefore, broad definitions of terrorism need to be guarded against as this leads to situations where those suspected of such broadly defined activities can be subjected to pre-charge detention. It is also important to note that the ‘principle of legality’ demands that offences should be clearly and narrowly defined so as to not unduly violate the rights of the suspects (Lloyd, 1996). The definition in Section 1, Terrorism Act 2000 has been conceptualised on this principle based on recommendations of Lord Lloyd in his seminal report on terrorism law, so that there is a clear definition of terrorism and also inclusion of safeguards to terror suspects so that even where pre-charge detention in Section 41 is allowed, safeguards in Terrorism Act 2000 and PACE 1984 are used to ensure that process of law is not arbitrary.

As per the definition of terrorism, there is nothing to prevent terrorism to be classed as an individual crime. This is also relevant given the increase in lone-wolf attacks in the last 20 years. Both Roach (2011) and Sageman (2011) write about ‘new terrorism’ which includes lone wolf attacks as there is a growth of small terror cells and cyber technology that facilitates the spread of terror ideology and motivates lone wolf attacks as well (Roach, 2011). Lone wolf terror attacks are harder for states to prevent (Sageman, 2011). As lone wolf attacks are perpetrated by individuals who are not necessarily associated with any terror association. Therefore, this necessitates the need for definition that encompass individual acts of terror.

Defining terrorism in international law has been challenging and controversial. A number of treaties have sought to define aspects of terrorism without providing a more general definition of the phenomenon. Examples include treaties like the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, 1973, International Convention Against Taking of Hostages, 1979, International Convention for Suppression of Financing of Terrorism, 1999, and International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, 2005 to name a few. Similarly, within the United Nations, UNSC Resolution 1373 (2001) is notable for calling upon states to take appropriate measures in conformity with the relevant provisions of national and international law,

including standards of human rights and the United Nations Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism calls on states to deny scope for terrorism for any ideological or political purpose. There has been a tendency in international law to define terrorism from an inductive approach, which means that definitions have not been general rather they target a specific kind of terror activity like hijacking of a plane (Levitt, 1986). On the other hand, deductive approach would be more concerned with formulating a generic definition of terrorism. International law definitions on terrorism have largely been inductive in nature although a generic definition of terrorism was indeed adopted in International Convention for Suppression of Financing of Terrorism, 1999.

In the UK, a statutory definition on terrorism is provided in the Terrorism Act 2000, Part 1, Section 1. This defines terrorism in a comprehensive sense as the use or threat of action for influencing the government or an international government organisation, or intimidating public, and for advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause. Section 1 also notes the actions that can be defined as terror actions, which include serious violence against a person or property, or serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public.

In the aftermath of 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, statutory definitions of terrorism have been adopted in the United States, although some definitions did exist prior to the attack as well. Consequently, there are multiple definitions of terrorism. The principle definition is contained in the United States Code, Title 22, Section 2656 f (d). This defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents” (Walker, 2011, p. 43). The Code of Federal Regulations (28 C.F.R. Section 085) also provides a legal definition of terrorism as “unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Media reporting

Research demonstrates that in the period after the 9/11 terror attacks, media reporting on terrorism has been focussed on the incidents of Islamic terrorism and this has led to negative perceptions of Muslims in the media (Alsultany, 2012; Saeed, 2007). Saeed (2007) writes that representation of Muslims in Anglo-American media was negative even in the period prior to 9/11, but became more negative after 9/11; he notes

“An ever-increasing body of research has argued that on the balance the images, representations and discourses relating to Islam/ Muslims in mainstream Western media tend to be negative and hostile” (Saeed, 2007, p. 444).

Negative and hostile are two important key words that are mentioned by Saeed (2007) in reference to reporting on Muslims. This view is concurred to by Walt (2015) who notes that negative representation of Muslims in the media is generally associated with the Islamic State (ISIS) recruiting British Muslims. The possible impact of such negative representation is noted by Khan and Estrada (2017) to be an ironic creation of the very same conditions that allow radicalisation of young British Muslims that the media has been overwhelmingly focussing on. Internet and online chatrooms have provided opportunities to ISIS and other militant organisations to reach out to a large number of young Muslims who are frustrated by the continuous negative portrayal of their community in the British mainstream media and are increasingly disengaged with the mainstream and easy prey to the recruiters (Khan & Estrada, 2017).

In the creation of a disproportionate emphasis on terrorism as an Islamic issue, role is also played by mass communication and Social Media technologies as there is evidence of terrorism propaganda and increased terror organisations’ memberships (Khan & Estrada, 2017). Online environments provide opportunities to terror organisations to recruit members and motivate them to carry out terror attacks irrespective of the geographical distance between them and the recruits and the victims themselves being “located in a different country or citizens of a different country than that in which terrorists originate” (Zimmermann, 2011, p. S153).

Against this background, we can see the disproportionate reporting by a section of the media on terrorism and linking it to Muslim populations in the UK. However, a question worth considering is how media reports on such terror related propaganda and how it links it to British Muslims. Thus, there is extensive reporting in the mainstream media on cases such as that of Shamima Begum where criticism in the mainstream media and the negative public discourse surrounding her has been considered to be attributable to her being a Muslim while there are other incidents involving non-Muslims that do not get similar coverage in media (Downing, 2019).

Terrorism as an individual crime

One of the areas related to terrorism that gets media attention is related to what have been called as ‘lone wolf terror’ events which see the involvement of a terrorist who is not a part of a terror organisation but is working on their own. Lone wolf terror attacks are part of the new terrorism that has been written about by Roach (2011) and Sageman (2011), who write that attacks by individuals who are not associated with any terror organisation, is one of the characteristics of new terrorism. From the perspective of anti-terrorism law, it has been noted that lone wolf terror attacks are harder for states to predict or prevent, making these challenging for states (Sageman, 2011). This may lead to stricter laws that are aimed at preventing such attacks. The question is whether responses to new terrorism such as lone wolf terror attacks would impact media organisations.

Lone wolf attacks have become more prevalent than before and there are many examples of lone wolf attacks in different western countries making it necessary for states to respond to these (Byman, 2017). In the United States, there is a ‘lone wolf’ provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Spaaij, 2010). In the UK as well, the threat of lone wolf terrorism has led to some responses by the state. This may have some implications for the media organisations because media may be seen to be encouraging inadvertently terror attacks or propensities for such attacks through the potential of its coverage of such attacks (White J. , 2020). Research has established that the media’s reporting on terrorism does provide the publicity which terrorists seek and this leads to the clear synergy between the media’s desire for a sensational story and the desire for publicity that a terrorist may have (Matusitz, 2013). As lone wolf attacks may be representative of an individual’s radicalisation, one of the ways in which such radicalisation may occur is through the media reporting as explained by the social contagion theory, which suggests that the media reporting of terrorist events may lead to encouragement of the spread of terrorist behaviour individuals who share like-minded propensities with the terrorists (White J. , 2020). The social contagion theory has argued that the reporting of the terrorist attack can at times be a tipping point for someone who had previously been considering carrying out a violent act (White J. , 2020).

Some media organisations are involved in the process of self-regulation to prevent the use of media reporting for encouraging terror events. In the UK, the BBC does this through guidance for its reporters and journalists who have been asked to avoid certain kind of language during reporting on terror events (BBC, 2021). Thus, there is a need for journalists to follow certain norms while reporting on terror and this includes objectivity in reporting, and importantly, the avoidance of discourse in a way which glamourises perpetrators of attacks, as this could encourage imitation (White J. , 2020).

The problem for the states is that even if the traditional media organisations are able to regulate their content and follow a specific responsible journalistic norms, there is little control over the new media and internet, which facilitates the ability of the terrorists to spread their propaganda and recruit and even facilitate terror events (Conway, 2006). For lone terrorists, the internet also provides space for gathering information on how to make bombs and even biological weapons that can be used by them to perpetrate their terror attacks (Conway, 2006).

Media and its relationship with terrorism

The overarching question for this research is what kind of challenges are posed by anti-terrorism legislation to the media organisations. In order to answer this question it is also important to consider the relationship of media with terrorism. In an older work, the interaction between media and terrorists has been explained as aimed at terror groups’ desire to attract the attention of a wide audience, have a form of recognition, and have the proper channels through which to legitimise their action (Alexander, Carlton, & Wilkinson, 1979). These factors still remain relevant to understanding why terrorists interact with the media or use the media for advancing some of these aims. However, with the advent of the newer forms of media, like social media, there may be additional or newer ways in which terrorists utilise their relationship with the media, which may be different from or in addition to the three factors mentioned by Alexander, Carlton, and Wilkinson (1979). For example, one additional way in which terror groups are utilising their relationship with the media is through the use of social media or online platforms for recruiting members of terror organisations, which is discussed later in this section. This is made possible due to the new forms of social media while conventional media may still not be used for the purpose of recruitment. Therefore, there is also a need to differentiate the relationship between conventional media and terrorists and the new media and the terrorists.

To define ‘media’, reference can be made to all channels of information and entertainment that comprise the vast field of media and can be further categorised as mass media (newspapers; radio; and television), and other forms of media that have come into being after the development in telecommunications. Media is no longer limited to conventional forms of information and entertainment and there are many new and emerging instruments of communication that come within the scope of media. As international terrorism is by definition terrorism with “victims located in a different country or citizens of a different country than that in which terrorists originate” (Zimmermann, 2011, p. S153), the terror organisations themselves are looking for networks that make it possible for them to recruit terrorists and generate propaganda in different parts of the world. It can be said that international terrorism does depend on the international networks to recruit and create propaganda. Terrorists also have media centred goals that are used by them to attain their objectives, which were highlighted by Nacos (2002) as ‘Four Media-Centered Goals’ of the terror organisations. These goals are gaining the attention and awareness of a variety of audiences, conveying their message for the public to recognise their motives, obtaining the respect and sympathy of members of the public they purportedly represent, and gaining legitimacy and status as political actors (Nacos, 2002).

Two different forms of media can be related to news and information, these being the conventional news media and social media. News media is a form of mass media, and it is used to deliver news to the general public through television and radio news channels and print media like magazines and newspapers. News media is focussed on collecting, and delivering the news to the general public through visual and print formats; there is also a growth of online media such as news blogs, which are part of news media. Online news media is particularly useful in bringing local and international news from anywhere through mobile and computers (Page, Barton, Unger, & Zappavigna, 2014). Social media refers to the latest technology of interactive communication and refers to a “range of tools and technologies that began to be developed in the later years of 1990s and became sites of mainstream Internet activities in the first decade of the 21st Century (Page, et al., 2014, p. 6). Social media is more interactive and inclusive than conventional media in that it provides a platform to people for sharing thoughts and images, while remaining connected to their audience (Page, et al., 2014). Social media is particularly significant for its impact on the way people communicate as communication cost is lowered and there are no spatial restrictions on the dissemination of information and opinions.

The difference between news media and social media is brought out well in the statement by Page, et al. (2014) who notes that “where mass media is presented as a one-to-many broadcasting mechanism (such as television, radio or print newspapers)” thus reaching a vast audience, social media is delivered to potentially large scale audiences and without curation because it “delivers content via a network of participants where the content can be published by anyone” (Page, et al., 2014, p. 5). Therefore, two important differences (that may be crucial in the way media is challenged by anti-terrorism legislation) are that where conventional news media is distributed through an established set of organisations or firms, social media can be distributed by anyone; and, where conventional news is curated, there is no such curating of social media news because it can be published by anyone.

Therefore, it is possible for social media to be used in a way that tends to generate propaganda, because of the non-curated nature of the information that can be disseminated through the social media. In the context of terrorism, this presents opportunities to terrorists who can use the social media platforms for spreading propaganda (White, 2011). At the same time, social media can also be useful for terrorist organisations for attracting widespread publicity for terrorist attacks and events (White, 2011). Thus, for media organisations, there is a challenge in that they can inadvertently become vehicles of propaganda or attention for terror organisations.

Media’s relationship with terrorism can also be understood in the context of globalisation, which is a phenomenon that explains the interconnectedness of the world and leads to the impact of events in one locale on locales situated elsewhere, made more potent because of the ubiquity of Internet, and the ease of travel and communication (Stiglitz, 2015). Globalisation has led to the changes and advances in technology and communication, with effects on many human activities and issues including on terrorism. Research demonstrates that terrorist groups are now able to expand their influence over individuals and communities in different parts of the world, irrespective of where the terrorist groups are situated because of the ability of Internet to help people connect with each other; this is the case with ISIS (Islamic State), that has managed to recruit a significant number of people from across the world including countries in the west (Khan & Estrada, 2017). Recent

literature has shown how groups like ISIS are able to spread their propaganda through Internet and online chatrooms and even recruit large number of individuals to join their cause (Khan & Estrada, 2017).

The relationship between media and terrorism is consequently becoming more complex because there are now different media available to the terrorists to spread propaganda, generate attention to a larger audience in the event of a terror attack, and even reach out and recruit a larger number of individuals through the use of social media (Khan & Estrada, 2017). The new forms of media may make it possible for the terror organisations today to attain these aims. It can be argued that as it becomes more and more obvious that terror organisations can abuse new forms of media, one of the challenges faced by media in the anti-terror legislation context would be tighter controls by law or at least more self-regulation by the media themselves do that their platforms are not misused by terror groups. Thus, one of the ways in which media organisations both new and conventional have tried to address these concerns is through self-regulation (Brownsword, Macdonald, Correia, & Watkin, 2019). Social media companies are now applying artificial intelligence measures to remove and block terrorist content from their platforms, but this in itself presents challenges to these companies because they are attempting to channel and regulate human conduct by removal and blocking of terrorist content (Brownsword, Macdonald, Correia, & Watkin, 2019). Particular challenges for social media companies in this context may be related to the way in which they define terrorist content and the processes by which users may appeal against an account suspension or the blocking or removal of content (Brownsword, Macdonald, Correia, & Watkin, 2019). Indeed, this regulation is increasingly demanded from governments across the world as they seek to limit the potential for terror organisations to use media for their purposes as is seen in the way the UK government has demanded that social media platforms develop methods by which they can regulate terrorist content on their platforms; an example can be seen in the development of a new tool by the UK Home Office that can analyse the audio and images of a video file during the uploading process for detection and rejection of 94 percent of propaganda of the ISIS with a 99.99 percent success rate (Greenfield, 2018, 13 February).

The major social media companies already have included stipulations in their terms of service forbidding any terrorist content; this can be seen in the Facebook's Community Standards that stipulate that organisations engaged in terrorist activity are not allowed a presence on their platform, and also in the Twitter Rules that forbid Tweets that are threatening or promoting terrorism (Brownsword, Macdonald, Correia, & Watkin, 2019). Thus, there are already self-regulatory mechanisms in place for the major social media companies as well as use of artificial intelligence for removing and blocking context that violates the norms of the use of platforms of these companies (Brownsword, Macdonald, Correia, & Watkin, 2019). However, the challenge for the companies is that the effectiveness of these norms are based on the premise that the users use their own moral register to some extent so that the community feels safe while using the platforms and also that the users would report and flag content that is violating of the standards and rules of usage. As such, these standards are what Hildebrandt (2008) terms as constitutive interventions that give agency to the human users rather than regulative interventions.

However, there may also be regulation of the media by the governments as they seek to restrict the potential for the misuse of the media by terrorists or the feeding of the terrorist agenda by the media as was the case with the way in which America sought to restrict the media coverage by Al Jazeera during the nascent period of the war in Afghanistan through the international pressure (Price, 2002). Similarly, in the UK there have been concerns about how anti-terror laws can be challenging to the media and the journalists; this was the case when the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which was enacted to increase police powers with relation to terrorism. In the context of media organisations, of particular significance is Section 76 which prescribes offences relating to information about members of armed forces and other services, and makes it an offence to “elicit, attempt to elicit, or publish information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism about them with punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine for the offence. Although, the law does make an exception for news reporting, at the time when it was enacted there were concerns by the journalists and photographers that Section 76 could expose professional photographers to fines and arrest and restrict the freedom of the press and increase the harassment of photographers. These concerns were compounded by the fact that many press reporters were in fact stopped and searched by the police using Section 44 powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 (Adetunji, 12 February 2009).

It is also important to note that as international law on anti-terrorism develops in a consensual manner, the fact that countries would seek to regulate their own laws so as to restrict media from certain kind of reporting can also have a bearing on how these countries may also form consensus at the international level to develop laws that are more restrictive of media role in the context of terrorism reporting and content. An example of a restrictive national law can be seen in the Russian Federal Law No. 148-FZ, of 27 July 2006, which amended Articles 1 and 15 of the federal law “On Countering Extremist Activity” to regulate internet-based speech so as to block or remove websites with controversial content (Yousef, 2016). Similar norms may also be included in the international anti-terrorism legislations.

Challenges to media by international anti-terrorism law development

Literature on challenges posed by the international (or domestic) anti-terrorism law suggests that particularly after the 11 September 2001 events, the development of anti-terror laws in many western countries including the UK, have had a negative impact on freedom of speech in general and on the freedom enjoyed previously in the media profession in particular (McNamara, 2009). In the UK, the traditional liberalism history and the relationship between the various UK governments and part of the media have also been reported in the literature to deteriorate to some degree (Thomas, 2002). Due to the impact of the anti-terrorism laws on media freedoms, some scholars, like McNamara (2009) have posited that the acts of terror in the UK were a pretext for more control of its citizens by the state and media rights as well (McNamara, 2009). Indeed, some laws made to counter terrorism have been considered to have implications for the rights of the journalists and media, such as, Section 1 of Prevention of Terrorism Act 2006 (Moorhouse, 2006). Concerns about how media can be challenged and impacted by anti-terrorism laws have been made by scholars in the UK (Cram, 2006; McNamara, 2009) as well as in regard to the European laws (Banisar, 2008). The critics of anti-terrorism laws in context of media argue that anti-terrorism laws affect journalists’ access to information, as well as freedom of speech (Cram, 2006; McNamara, 2009; Banisar, 2008).

In the international and regional context, a number of anti-terror resolutions and laws are now in existence and some of these may even be seen to be presenting challenges to media organisations because these may come in the way of freedom of speech and other press freedoms (Al-Khattawi, 2013). In Europe, the Council of Europe Resolution 1271 (2002) stated explicitly that “The combat against terrorism must be carried out in compliance with national and international law and respecting human rights.” This suggests that the Council of Europe has sought to balance the rights of the states to counter terrorism with the rights that are considered to be human rights. The Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, Recommendation 1706 (2005) on Media and terrorism has also noted that the terrorist actions that have been witnessed worldwide ought not to be used as an excuse for reducing freedom of expression and information, and this reflects particularly on the rights of the media.

It may also be noted that Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights particularly protects the right to freedom of expression of the individuals and media organisations and provides that the right to freedom of speech includes the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. However, the rights protected in the ECHR are not absolute and the states do have the right to protect their citizens and sovereignty from terror attacks. This relates to security and the Council of Europe has clarified that it is essential to ensure that media reporting on terrorism is aware of the security situation and also prevents journalists from being exposed to dangers caused by terrorists or the anti-terrorist action of state authorities (Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly , 2005). One of the challenges faced by the media organisations is to ensure that their journalists are safe while reporting on terror attacks. At the same time, there is concern by academics that the laws related to countering terrorism are also used by the states to restrict the rights of the media.

In 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe (PACE) has referred to the challenges faced by the media organisations and journalists and has made a recommendation to the Member States that they should take proper and adequate initiatives to ensure the protection of the right of journalists to refuse to disclose the origin of their sources and that there are facts that reflect on “large number of cases, in which public authorities, in Europe, have forced, or attempted to force, journalists to disclose their sources, despite the clear standards set by the ECtHR and the Committee of Ministers. These violations are more frequent in member states without clear legislation” (Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe , 2011). It can be argued that the Council of Europe in making such a statement, suggests that there is evidence that the European anti-terrorism laws have indeed led to some concerns about infringement of fundamental rights of journalists (Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe , 2011)

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One of the research studies on the effects of terrorism on media is by McNamara (2006) has revealed that there are many negative effects of counter terrorism laws on the freedom of media. According to the findings of this research, one of the challenges that is experienced by the media is that the anti-terrorism laws have affected the media’s ability to inform and report on matters of public interest particularly as some of the laws may be restrictive (McNamara, 2009). The events of September 11, 2001 have been found to be influential in driving the laws that have had impacts on the media and the freedom of press. The anti-terror laws after 2001 have been found to be limiting of the freedom of media organisations (McNamara, 2009).

Another important aspect of the relationship between the media organisations and terrorism is that the media organisations can be subject to a competitive approach towards terror event reporting which can impact the ways in which the media organisations report these events (Fakude, 2017). The news channels are now 24-hour news channels and there is a very significant amount of competition between the news channels to report on terror attacks. There is a competition between news channels to break news channels and then keep the narrative going on for as long as possible for the continual coverage of events (Fakude, 2017). There are also differences between news organisations in the west and those in the east in respect of which kinds of news reports are made. In this respect it has been stated that:

“Media operational guidelines in this regard vary from organisation to organisation, and most guiding principles are born from a number of rules of thumb and “editorial gut feel”. Also, most big news media are located in Europe, which makes it easier for them to cover breaking news. Furthermore, there is an enabling working environment in most European countries for journalists to operate. Ordinarily, the rarity, severity and frequency of events play a critical role in the prioritisation of news stories. Frequent events lack traction and most news organisations tend to give less attention to such news. What attracts attention is rare news and those that contain severe impacts such as high number of casualties and injuries. This is the justification used to explain why certain stories make it to the news and receive a rolling live coverage whilst others don’t. Acts of terrorism have been – until recently – rare in most European metropolises compared to the Middle East, making terrorism incidences in Europe more attractive” (Fakude, 2017, p. 3).

An important point made above is that acts of terrorism were rare in the west as compared to the higher number of acts of terror in the Middle East and this makes the reporting of the terror incidents in Europe more attractive to the news organisations. This statement is important because it reflects on the subjectivity of the news reporting in mainstream media organisations because certain kinds of news may be deemed more news worthy to editors of certain media organisations. It may be noted here, that subjectivity of reporting in the media has been flagged as a concern by a recent report that noted that journalists do not always follow journalistic ethos while reporting and that while some journalists may report in a way that is prejudiced or biased, others may report in a way that may sound sympathetic to the terrorists’ cause (White J. , 2020).

Findings and conclusion

This dissertation was concerned with the question of how media is impacted by anti-terrorism laws and the kinds of challenges that are faced by the media organisations in context of terrorism reporting. This dissertation finds that a number of anti-terror resolutions and laws are now in existence in international law and domestic law where some of these may even be seen to be presenting challenges to media organisations because these may come in the way of freedom of speech and other press freedoms. Even if the law is not made to regulate the media, the nature of relationship between the media and terrorism is that media itself may be required to regulate or self-regulate the content that is published on their platforms. This challenge can be compounded if international anti-terror law develops further to regulate the ways in which media reports terror events. For example, in the UK, anti-terror laws have been considered to be challenging to the media and the journalists like Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which was enacted to increase police powers with relation to terrorism and led to concerns for the journalists that they could be arrested or punished for being in possession of certain material or information that could be prohibited by the law.

Challenges may be different for the traditional and mass media outlets and those that are social media. Conventional news media is distributed through an established set of organisations or firms, but social media can be distributed by anyone and the latter is not even curated. One challenge for social media is that it has to respond to the issue of its being used in a way that can generate terrorist propaganda. Social media can also be useful for terrorist organisations for attracting widespread publicity for terrorist attacks and events. Thus, for media organisations, there is a challenge in that they can inadvertently become vehicles of propaganda or attention for terror organisations. It can be expected that as it becomes more and more obvious that terror organisations can abuse new forms of media, one of the challenges faced by media in the anti-terror legislation context would be tighter controls by law or at least more self-regulation by the media themselves do that their platforms are not misused by terror groups. Thus, one of the ways in which media organisations both new and conventional have tried to address these concerns is through self-regulation. Use of artificial intelligence measures to remove and block terrorist content from their platforms is one of the methods used by social media organisations but this in itself presents challenges to these companies because they are attempting to channel and regulate human conduct by removal and blocking of terrorist content. Moreover, challenges for social media companies in this context may also be related to the way in which they define terrorist content and the processes by which users may appeal against an account suspension or the blocking or removal of content. In the context of law itself, the blocking of accounts may be seen to be an activity that violates the rights of the users.

Another challenge faced by the media organisations is that the laws related to countering terrorism are also used by the states to restrict the rights of the media.

In 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe (PACE) has referred to the challenges faced by the media organisations and journalists and has made a recommendation to the Member States that they should take proper and adequate initiatives to ensure the protection of the right of journalists to refuse to disclose the origin of their sources. Literature explored in this dissertation, like McNamara (2006), has revealed that there are many negative effects of counter terrorism laws on the freedom of media. According to the findings of this research, one of the challenges that is experienced by the media is that the anti-terrorism laws have affected the media’s ability to inform and report on matters of public interest particularly as some of the laws may be restrictive (McNamara, 2009). The anti-terror laws after 2001 have been found to be limiting of the freedom of media organisations (McNamara, 2009).

Based on the above findings, it can be concluded that media and terrorism interact in a way that makes it important for regulation of media, which in itself is the biggest challenge that is faced by the media organisations at this time. Regulation may be required in the manner of self-regulation, but it may also be done through law as is the case with the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which has raised some concerns in the academic and media fraternity as to restrictions on the media. As media is related to terrorism in the way that it reports terror events, and also inadvertently creates encouragement for terror events, such restrictions and regulation is expected. However, the challenge for media organisations is to respond to possible restrictions on media freedoms.

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