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Do News Channels Inspire Or Stimulate Terrorism Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5529 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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News media and the News channels are a very important part of society. Their role is to inform the mass about what is happening around the world. But the scenario has changed drastically in last few years. Sensationalism of news elements has become more important than reporting within the ethical boundary specially while in case of crisis for example terrorist activity. What is terrorism? [1] Terrorism is a repulsive act of human killing and destructions, and it is often being prioritized by the news channels. Thus news channels are accused with the charge of ‘being terrorist’s best friend’ [2] (Almagor, 2005:385). They need publicity and the news channels to provide it to them. News channels are responsible behind the success of terrorism (Almagor, 2005). Nowadays the news channel owners are much concerned about their profit, so terrorism has become a good business policy for these channels, for example when 9/11 happened for almost a week all the news channels around the world were busy covering the event to get more TRP [3] . On the other hand news channels glamorize terrorists, thus media often called as the provider of ‘oxygen of terrorism’ (Carruthers, 2000).

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This article illustrates about the news channel coverage of terrorist activity and how media helps terrorists by providing huge publicity concerning about the nightmare for the people of Mumbai, those three days when every Indian cried with the black tear, those three days when the citizens of Mumbai were terrified with the sound of the blast and the firing of the guns, those three days when many people lost their loved ones and finally when the media proved them the worst, the 26/11 Mumbai siege in 2008, in which media proved to be the best friend of terrorist by helping them, though it was unintentional, but just to be exclusive and gain more viewership they put lot of people in danger. [4] In this article I would also describe the question raised in my mind, Is this ethical journalism?

Theoretical Review

A news media has extreme responsibility on them, they are powerful; they are the people who focus the reality of the world in the common people’s eye. But in recent years news channel broadcasting has dramatically changed, in Philip Taylor’s word the news media which was previously known as the informer, educator and entertainers has changed in the last ten years, their environment has now changed, it is full of competition, with the use of modern technologies, plus they are in the global market [5] . Nowadays they are facing competition from internet, and also with the help of portable camcorders the rise of citizen journalists is also very important (2003). As the ownership has also changed, the reporters are now always with the pressure of accuracy, thus the news value may sometimes become less important. Day by day the news channels are becoming overaggressive in terms of presenting ‘breaking news’ just to keep the Television Rating Point (TRP) high, in order to gain more money, especially while reporting terrorist activity. Picard, in his essay described four types of tradition used in news while reporting terrorism, ‘information tradition’, sensationalism, feature story tradition and didactic tradition (1991). The author implied that within all four traditions sensationalistic tradition creates anger, fear, emotions and increase in the viewership of television (Picard,1991). Sensationalism is mostly used while reporting the terrorist activities. Terrorism is dangerous but the media makes the picture more terrified, the terrorist events could be understood by watching the news frame and the priority has given to that news, and the structure of the narrative or story telling method of the event (Norris et al, 2003). Terroristic news stories comes under different packaging styles, for example in the style of bulletins or as breaking news or sometimes with the graphical presentations or talk shows, and sometime comes with the follow-up stories (Picard, 1991).Walter Laqueur pointed out in his essay, “There is a tendency to magnify the importance of terrorism in modern society : society is vulnerable to attack, but it is also astonishingly resilient. Terrorism makes a great noise” (1986).the media is often working as the medium of the terrorist. Terrorists exists due to the media, as the media sensationalize [6] the news stories with the horrible representation of violent terrorists and portrays the victims as actors, creates enormous tensions and anguish, they often become a part of this terrified drama which they represents to report the repulsion of terrorism. There is a subtle bond could be seen within media and terrorist (Almagor, 2005). Media is helping the terrorists by providing huge publicity, for example after 9/11 Osama Bin Laden becomes more famous than any Hollywood star. Terrorists seek publicity to create horror in peoples mind and media helps them to do it. Without the media coverage terrorism would have wiped out, because if they don’t get the publicity people would not get horrified about them, “wide spread attention alone gives purpose and meaning to terrorist acts” (Carruthers, 2000). The media basically ‘glamorizes’ terrorists, bringing them in the limelight. They provide them such publicity that often it becomes difficult to differentiate between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. Simon Jenkins pointed out that “Terrorism is 10 per cent bang and 90 per cent an echo effect composed of media hysteria, political overkill and knee-jerk executive action, usually retribution against some wider group treated as collectively responsible. This response has become 24-hour, seven-day-a-week amplification by the new politico-media complex, especially shrill where the dead are white people” (cited in Moorcraft et al, 2007:48-49).

Media Ethics

What is ethics? [7] Ethics in not a set of rules or codes of conduct which should followed, ethics is a bunch of principles regarding the right and wrongs of human behaviour, that have some reasoned theoretical basis which has objective and impartial applications (Belsey and Chadwick, 1992).journalism is tied with a bunch of ethics and all the journalists have to follow the ethics. Specifically a news organization has to follow some ethical news values they have certain ethical codes firstly ‘accuracy’, it means a reporter or a journalist should always use the appropriate fact with right words and using it at right place. A journalist should be independent while framing the news stories but at same time they should be careful about the gender, the social class plus they cannot be biased while reporting and the news organisation should trust the journalist neither they will also become a part of the news packaging. Secondly ‘confirmation’ before reporting news a journalist should research about it. Thirdly ‘tenacity’ is the personal and institutional importance of a news story, it also has institutional applications which helps one who malfunctions in the environment of huge resources. Fourthly, ‘dignity’ it deals with the self-respect to the subject of a story because it increases the news value of a specific story or sometime values individuals. Dignity gives the sense to an individual journalist to help understand the structure of news gathering which is a corporation and everyone plays a role together with the editors, videographers, designers and advertising sales staff. Next is ‘sufficiency’ which finds out the suitable resources for the important issues. It means ‘thoroughness’ such as scrutinising the facts before reporting in other words, finding out the suitable resources at the time of news gathering. Later comes ‘equity’. It means a journalist should always judge the resources equally in case of controversial stories. Equity develops the journalistic norms from “telling the both side of story” to “telling all side of story” (Patterson and Wilkins, 2008:36) according to equity a journalist should consider all points of view equally but do not need to frame all of them equally. After that is ‘community’, that is, to give value to the social unity, the sense of community in the organisation demands the news organisation owner first to be a citizen than a profit maker. For an individual journalist it means to evaluate the news with the common eye for the social welfare. The next point is diversity. A journalist should cover all the important segments impartially and sufficiently, and a journalist should know how to think with diversity, without any influence of their personal culture or traditions. Finally, reciprocity treats others as the journalist is wishing that person to treat him/herself. Reciprocity defines journalism as ‘benevolent paternalism’ (Patterson and Wilkins, 2008). These is the primary ethics for the news organisation, violation of these rules could penalise the news organisations.

There are some more ethics which is applicable on journalists, first of all a journalist should be honest while news gathering and reporting. Privacy, a journalist should have respect for the ‘right to privacy’ (Belsey and Chadwick, 1992). A journalist should respect people’s privacy and also protect the privacy of confidential news elements in the time of reporting. Finally a journalist should maintain certain qualities such as ‘fairness, truthfulness, trustworthiness and non-malevolence’. Journalists are bound to follow these ethics and for violation of the code of conduct their licence could be cancelled (Belsey and Chadwick, 1992).

Though lots of struggling has been done to draw the line of conduct, but it totally depends upon a journalist who actually faces numerous situations where it is not possible to maintain the codes of conduct exactly, then they have to decide depending upon the moral choice. “No codes can anticipate every situation” (Belsey and Chadwick, 1992).

Case study

On a very fine evening of 26th November 2008 [8] , Mumbai the gateway of India suddenly shaded with the reign of fire. More than 10 places were attacked with powerful bombs and many people were killed while the shooting was going on with the heavy machine guns and AK47’s by a group of terrorists. The luxurious hotels like Oberoi Trident, Taj Hotel and Nariman House were attacked as they targeted the foreigners to exploit the Indian tourism. Not only that, the Cama hospital was also captured by the terrorists. Firing ensued in Leopold, a renowned café in Mumbai mostly crowded with foreigners, and also at Mumbai V.T station and in Metro cinema were due firing and several people died. According to the report of Times of India 6 foreigners died in this incident. Not only foreigners, they killed 101 innocent people and many people were injured. Many people were killed in the firing at Chatrapati Shibaji Terminus, 5 Police officers were killed [9] , 18 commandos died. For 60 hours Mumbai was under the dark shadow of terror. This incident started on 26th and finished on 28th of November after destroying the heritage of the city hotel Taj [10] (Times of India,2008).on 28th of November this war came to an end, all the terrorist were neutralized by the NSG commandos. This is the biggest terror attack ever happened (IBN, 2008).

During such an incident, Indian news channels did not miss any chance to compete within each other. For every reporter it was a crucial time, which channel would give exclusive news, which cloud engaged more viewers to gain more TRP. But the Indian media has been mostly criticized due to two reasons, first of all while reporting the updated condition of Taj hotel the news channels were providing sensitive information, and they were also fabricating the news elements. Secondly, they were giving more importance to Taj hotel and Oberoi hotel rather than covering other affected area of the city (Mishra, 2008).

In such a critical moment when Indian defences were fighting with their life on that moment Indian news channels were too keen to provide the military positions, it could easily help the terrorist operators who were in Pakistan and the terrorists were also carrying mobile phone, so it was quite easy for them to know all the information which the Indian media were publicly disclosing, when the army were trying to enter at the Taj hotel a very renowned news channel NDTV, reported “cops trying to enter the Taj hotel” (Hit2020, 2008). As every news channel tried to be exclusive they were presenting the incident with different drama. For example India TV famous Indian 24 hour news reported live the telephone conversations between the news channel correspondent and the terrorist group, according to them; they were the only news channel whom the terrorist had chosen for the conversation. On the other hand Ajtak [11] another news channel of India presented such a horrible situation very dramatically with the use of computer graphics, they claimed that 9 terrorist were arrested and 2 died, but in reality at the end of 28th November only one terrorist named Ajmal Kasab [12] was arrested alive. Headlines today reported the incident as ‘India’s 9/11’.They mentioned that the media were attacked by the terrorists at front of the Taj hotel, which were not shown in any other news channels. In such situation the reporters held their mike in front of the hostages who had just been rescued by the Army or by the fire brigade, who were traumatized, shocked or some of them were in grief for the loss of their close ones, for instance Times Now reported live the interview of a hostage who was trapped in Taj hotel’s old wing by the terrorist and he was rescued later by the securities. He was distressed but the reporters interrogated him again and again to get the exclusive news feed, which could produce more breaking news. Padma Shri, Award receiver journalist Barkha Dutt(Television point,2008) interviewed two women whose husbands were inside during the situation to ask how they were feeling on that moment, what could the mental state of their husband, to ask such silly questions(eyeopner, 2008). While the NSG commandos were running operations in Nariman house [13] , they were secretly coming on the roof of the Nariman house from the helicopter with the rope the media covered from every single angle and presented live and exclusive on the television. Every news channel provided different statistics of dead and injured people.

While all these dramas appeared in Indian television, Pakistani news channels showed some different dramas. As right after the first attack the NSG and Indian intelligence pointed their finger towards Pakistan after getting an email by a terrorist gang accepting all the charges, which has been sent from Pakistan, which was later proved correct also, but the Pakistani media did not agreed that. During such circumstances some Pakistani channels arranged talk shows rather informing about the condition. A news channel named News 1 invited Zaid Hamid a security consultant of Pakistan for a talk show and in that talk show he was found to accuse India and called the incident a stage groomed play or ‘drama’. He claimed that Indian politicians were trying to create another 9/11, and they are fooling around the world with the news. They kept denying about the fact that Pakistan is involved into this. In another talk show where the guests were Dr. Fareed Paracha, Deputy Secretary General, Jamaat e Islami, who were caught while abusing India and their religion, they believe by doing this India is getting sympathy and making the master plan against Pakistan. On 28th of November news 1 again organized a talk called ‘Siyasat aur Pakistan’ show with Mr Zaid Hamid, on that show they blamed Indian opponent party BJP. They indicated it as an election drama. From their point of view the drama was planned to gain votes for the recent election. They not only blamed Indian media for taking part in the so called ‘drama’ but also to western media (American media). According to them this event was scripted from very before and they were thinking how to get prepare for the next war. A news channel named Aaj TV hosted by Talat Hussein was caught reporting offensive comments against Indian media on a show called ‘live with Talat’ [14] , and Indian intelligence rejecting the evidences found against pakistan.(AAJ TV,2008).

24 hour News channels due to Globalisation and its effects on the News Channels business

This is a media saturated world, with the ever changing sounds, images and words and with the 24/7 [15] news. The news channel turned 24 hour to give some competition to the entertainment channels. Television should be live and news is the only live show on television, it has the ability to transform the stories in a very less time to the global audience. This is utilized by the broadcasting ecology and the privatized satellites (Thussu, Freedman, 2003).

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In the year 1980, CNN turned into 24 hour news channel (Moorcraft. Taylor, 2007).It was the first 24 hour news channel. After that many news channels followed CNN. Especially BBC, whose BBC world is a 24 hour news channel, it is called ‘CNNisation [16] of television networks’ (Thussu, Freedman,2003).Today all the news channels are of 24hours and 7days. To run 24 hour news channels needs a bunch of breaking news [17] , thus terrorist attacks are so important to them.it often needs Sensationalization and trivialisation which often gives priority to entertainment rather than news value. The audience is also interested in conflicts, because every conflict turned into news. The terrorist stories showed using three dimensional video games; it can give the proper description of the attack without showing blood on screen (Thussu, Freedman, 2003). The contemporary mass is deeply connected with the news stories, people subscribe news channels. Each time the news is faster, slicker and well defined with information it gains more popularity than the normal ones. However the live news has its own news value, we always give live news a special preference, because we can see whatever is happening in front of our eyes (Thussu, Freedman, 2003). Thus, news coverage of the Mumbai terror attack of 26/11 has become so popular because we were watching the situation live. For this reason 24 hour news channels are becoming so popular.

Due to globalisation [18] all the news channels are facing more challenges. The audience has become globalised. Many channels have turned global, some of their target audience is diasporic and others are doing international coverage (Thussu, Freedman, 2003). That is why the international news value has increased rather than the local news; the news channels are more interested about the ecstatic news rather than emergency or adventure news. So news channels looks for some big event through which they can create distant suffering [19] , for this reason terrorism activities are so necessary or important for the news channels. Globalisation in other words is westernisation of these news channels because still there is a western domination in global information and entertainment industry. Westernisation of those channels fortifies the western hold, specifically United Kingdom and USA companies. In reality television news culture which has globalised in US style has affected the commercial news culture in other parts of the world. This is why after globalisation the main resource of news footages are Reuters and Associated Press Television News (Thussu, Freedman, 2003). Hence the news value has more influenced with the outcome that means which can make the news channel widespread. Firstly news is a commodity which can be bought and sold and at the same time it is related with profit, it is basically elusive (White, undated) news formulate the bunch of information in the form of a commodity due to three reason, political communication, business and pleasure and directed with the high technologies. “There are diverse and competing interests at work, and that what may appear at one level to be ‘globalisation’ in the sense of ‘homogenisation’, may appear at another level as fragmentation and competition” (Barrett et.al, 1998, 2). As regarded, there is a huge possibility that the morality of objective journalism such as fairness and impartiality is being compromised with the ever increasing market shares.as a result of globalisation a relationship has been found between journalistic practice and compassion fatigue [20] . Susan D. Moeller argued in his book about the compassion fatigue(cited in Tester,2001), that it is nothing but the short time attention and bore dome produced in media audience in case of news stories. Moeller claimed that compassion fatigue underpins prescribed coverage. . Moeller anticipated on journalist who have a tendency to reject those event which is less melodramatic or the event is being modified by the journalists by choosing sensitive images and languages making it more deadly than the reality. At the same time compassion fatigue allures the journalist to search for more sensationalistic stories to keep in mind of their target audience and also inspires the media to leave the story and set off for the new ones when the coverage possibility is over (cited in Tester, 2001).

Television news is now called ‘infotainment’ [21] (Thussu, Freedman, 2003:122). Reporting style has totally changed, especially in the time of crisis the news transformed into melodrama with use of music, special effects, computer graphics, re-enactments etc. is presented by the glitzy anchor, and now the news channels started a new policy for income that is online voting. In the time of a very critical situation or at the moment of reporting catastrophe at the bottom of the screen a column appears where either you are asked to write your opinion about the current incident or you have to answer a question that has been asked and you need to text by using your mobile phone credit, from where they will get their benefits (Garakarajula, 2009).not only that, news channels profit a lot from the advertising revenue, thus they make the news stories colorful, effective that advertisers find profit in that channel and the channel gets the advertisements. Not only that, television earns money by selling news online [22] , specifically in the time of crisis people tend to watch the same news again and again or people who live far away from the country watch the program online.


After the 26/11 Mumbai attack the Indian media and the Pakistani media were tremendously criticized by the people of India, Mumbai as well as the people who watched the incident on television. Though the Indian media have done an excellent job, still the media crossed the ethical boundary and all morality levels. First of all they disclosed the Indian security movements at Hotel Taj that was quite dangerous because the terrorist controller was in Pakistan and they were having conversations while the operation was going on, secondly the drama was showed on television that made lot of people angry on some news channels, nowadays there is a trend to sensationalise news stories, to make people feel about the agony, the anger against the terrorists and curiosity about the incident in effect to make more money. Thirdly, they gave all the importance on the two hotels Taj and Oberoi Trident. there were many places in Mumbai where lot of people died and injured due to the same terrorist attack. chatrapati shivaji terminal [23] , where people died in the blast and also many of them were assassinated by the terrorist group, but they were not the perfect news stories for the news channels, instead of that they were focusing on the foreign people to gain international publicity (Mishra,2008). One of the very renowned news channel India TV reported live conversation between their news correspondent and the terrorist group but later they could not show any proof of it (hit2020, 2008). When some of the hostages were freed by the NSG commandos the reporters held the mike before them, who might have just lost someone or shocked. All the news channels sensationalized the situation, and turned it into a news drama. People were glued to their television set, the police and security commandos were trying their best to fight against the terrorist and also they had to manage the news reporters with their flash lights and cameras which was bothering the security. A very important part of the coverage which hugely flashed criticism about media was the live video which showed the military operation of Nariman house, when the NSG commandoes were running their operation they got down on the roof of the Nariman house from the helicopter by using rope, which was a secret mission and it was being aired live on the national television. It made the people angry(Los Angeles Times,2009).In such time of crisis Indian media and Pakistan’s media were having a cold war between them, both the news channel were cursing even abusing on television. This raised a question in my mind that was that the best time to had such conversation? Do media ethics does not exist in the following list of the news channels?

After watching such dreadful dramas people busted in anger. Mutiny, an Indian citizen commented on a blogosphere after watching the news coverage of Indian news channels, “Their coverage of the attacks has been completely self-defeating and highly immoral, if nothing else. They are causing as much damage to us right now, just not in terms of lives. Shameful irreverence from such tardy media persons is shocking in such times. They definitely have an agenda of their own, and I can bet my entire fortune on it that the unity of the people or strict action on terrorism is not part of it. They are too happy in their petty world of pointless debates, disuniting and cynical rhetoric and brainless remarks on sensitive issues” (Mishra,2008). Chetan Kunte another citizen of India asked question to barkha dutt, an Indian journalist after watching the her coverage on NDTV [24] , “You do not need to be a journalist to understand the basic premise of ethics, which starts with protecting victims first; and that is done by avoiding key information from being aired publicly” (Mishra,2008).an online petition was published asking the Indian media to be mature and commented “We don’t want your ‘news updates’ or ‘breaking news’. We don’t need to see everything live. We don’t want sensationalism, we want real journalism.” it asked the news media to at least consider rationally about the society and the mass before the transmission. Not only that, Tahmineh Khajotia a Mumbai resident who lives very near to Taj Hotel, has commented on her blog about the publicity freak news channel who before every report said that their channel is the first one to show the images, or they said this exclusive image which was only available on their channel(Khajotia,2008). A website called ‘Faking News’ anticipated that while the media reported the sensitive issues about the security positions inside Taj hotel the Home Ministry contacted the news channel and told them to stop the transmission of the security movements because it could be unsafe but the channel owners thought if they stop the transmission that could affect their profits and TRP. Though the people watched the live coverage but the media got the negative publicity (Mishra,2008).

On the other hand Pakistani news channels [25] were so irresponsible that in spite of covering the incident live they arranged talk shows where they had invited wise renowned guests to just abuse Indian Government as well as NSG. As they were found guilty for the incident, they kept denying on their show and at the same time they termed it a ‘drama’ scripted by the Indian opponent party Bharatiya Janata Party known as BJP. They don’t really bother about those people who are trapped inside. They were too busy to discuss about the religious differences on the same Hindu Muslim issue, the rivalry between two countries. The journalist always has a tendency to take side of their countries; especially in time of crisis (Moorcraft, Taylor,2007). Nonetheless is this ethical? Journalist’s ethical report demonstrates that the journalist should always maintain equity (Patterson, Wilkins, 2008), as I have mentioned before in this article (see page 6). They should not violate the ethical code of conduct neither they could be penalised (Belsey and Chadwick, 1992). But do the journalists or the news channel owners really aware of their ethical limitation? And if the answer is yes then do they bother to follow it?


The media has lost their trustworthiness as an instance of quality and for a demonstration of moral character (Tester,2001).the media is a very important part of society and news channels are the core element of the media sector. Media is very powerful, but the power has changed towards ‘dominance’ as this includes the privileged use of communal capitals and the legalisation of this kind of dissimilarity.

As the news media has turned the field of theatre were for 24 hours and 7 days the drama goes on, with the nice labelling of ‘breaking news’. Manipulation has become the best tool for the drama; Teun A. van Dijk commented that the media is abusing the power which is given to it by the people in the name of law. Author pointed out that “manipulation as a form of media power enactment is usually evaluated in negative terms,


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