look forward to your views on this for Letter to Editor
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A colloquium on Media and Terrorism
GlobalomNet Media Service
event was well attended by a diverse crowd of people who enjoyed the
Islamic exhibition set up in the foyer by the Ahmadiyya community.
Mirza spoke about the true meaning and connotation of the word Jihad and
both the context of the Koran and Islamic history. He explained how Islam
is a religion of peace and gave quotations from the Koran to support his
views. Naseem Mahdi spoke about the faith of Islam and living in
Canada as pluralistic Muslims.
Below are excerpts from the talk on Terrorism and Media by Raheel Raza.
an appropriate topic in light of the fact that last Friday May 3 was World
Press Freedom Day.
is the first time that world press freedom day was devoted to the
questions of terrorism and media freedom.
Secretary General Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights and Koichiro Matsuura of UNESCO released a joint statement on
press freedom and the war against terrorism.
pointed out that while millions of people die each year in acts of
terrorism, in each of the past two years at least 50 journalists were
killed in covering violent conflicts.
is called academic terrorism.
went on to explain that basic
freedoms, human rights and democratic practices are the best guarantors of
freedom…so the greatest service that the media can perform in the fight
against terrorism is to act freely, independently and responsibly.
The question we ask today is how does media tie in with terrorism?
briefly examine the meaning of the word terrorism and its various
According the Oxford dictionary, Terror, terrorize and terrorist mean to coerce with fear, fill with terror and use terror inspiring methods of governing.
According to official US documents, terrorism is “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature”. This is done thru intimidation, coercion of instilling fear.
But along with the literalist meanings of the word, there is also a propagandist usage of the term which has become far more user friendly.
lets look at the prevalence of terrorism in the world pre September 11.
many kinds of Terrorism exists in the world today, three come to mind:
individual terrorism like Carlos the Jackal, institutionalized terrorism like Hitlers regime and state controlled terrorism like the
I believe that anywhere, anytime in the world where the weak are
oppressed, and people are de-humanized - terrorism is alive and well.
earliest of times, terrorism, as an act of terror has reigned in the
world. The 1793 period of the French revolution was rightly called a reign
the holocaust in the second world war, to East Timor; from torture and
death in Rwanda to flogging of women in Nigeria; from the attack in
Nicaragua in the 1980’s in which thousands of people died, to Hiroshima
– make no mistake, all this comes under the heading of terrorism.
It is reported that in 1990 the US provided 80% of the arms used by Turkeys counterinsurgency against the Kurds – killing thousands, destroying 3,500 villages and leaving 2.3 million people homeless – this was assisted terrorism.
Noam Chomsky – a name familiar to many of you - world renowned political activist, writer, professor of linguistics at MIT and author of many books including Culture of Terror says in his book 9-11, that in 1986, the US was condemned by the world court for unlawful use of force i.e. international terrorism. US vetoed the Security Council resolution calling on all states to adhere to international law.
point to note here is that these and other acts of terrorism were not
termed as terrorism or reported as terrorist acts by mainstream media.
They were reported in a different terminology by media across the world.
slaughter of innocent Jews was called a holocaust; rape and massacre in
Bosnia was called ethnic cleansing; ongoing killing in Ireland is called
religious zealotry; in Saudi Arabia the terrorizing of domestic help is
called racism; terrorism in South Africa was called apartheid – all very
politically correct language when in actual fact these were undeniable
acts of terrorism under any definition.
examine the current crisis in the Middle East where the aggressions
of the Israeli army are called defensive measures and suicide
bombers are called martyrs when very clearly they are both acts of
terrorism emanating from different causes.
Let me tell you about some other kinds of terrorism.
In parts of the world where honour killings are practiced and justified against women and their rights are trampled – that is gender terrorism – but in Nigeria they justify it by calling it culture or tradition and this is how the media reports it.
countries where minorities are persecuted like in Pakistan, where the
Ahmaddiya community has been persecuted and harassed for decades, they
pass it off as lawful and justified.
non- judicial killings of the minority shia community in Pakistan are
called and reported non-committaly
as sectarian violence – when the same sects have lived side by side for
1400 years and never reverted to the kind of violence as in the present
Pakistan when these acts of brutality take place, the media either ignores
them or calls them isolated acts of violence when this is in fact state
may ask why and I’ll tell you. When a government looks the other way and
does not take active steps to punish perpetrators of violent acts, it
become complicit in the crimes. When accountability becomes a thing of the
past, terrorism exists side by side with so called law abiding governments.
examine some other ways where media, right here in North America can
downplay acts of violence.
of women is called sexual abuse – a term that can’t even begin to
identify the terror and brutality associated with such an act. By giving
it a politically correct term, it downplays the impact.
Domestic violence is nothing else but terror – but is it ever reported as such?
current case of Randal Dooley is the worst kind of terrorism against
innocent children – something that exists in many parts of the world but
does not fall under the technical category of terrorism.
point here is that for years media has turned a blind eye to many acts of
individual, systemic or state sponsored terrorism.
individual countries, events
are reported, not based on their facts, but according to how the
government of the time wants them presented and how well they sell in
the question of whether there is actual freedom of speech – let’s not
kid ourselves. Even in countries like Canada where we would EXPECT freedom
of press, we have people who come down heavy on some editorials and
we continue this discussion based on the fact that freedom of press is
only as limited as freedom of speech – in the press news is what sells.
we can’t escape from the fact that media is one of the most powerful
influences on our life today – it makes and shapes opinion. CNN is a
perfect example of a North American media machine that has it’s own take
on current events.
Talking of CNN, let’s take a look at media and terrorism post September 11.
the day that George Bush said, you are either with us or with the
terrorists, the entire meaning of the word terrorism has changed and
you have to only read Noam Chomsky’s book 9 – 11 to get a very clear
has become the most used word in the English language and the most mis-used
word for media.
It’s applications and definitions have moved from actual terrorism of the domestic, psychological, financial and societal realm to that of state propaganda.
a recent conference in California on Terrorism and Global Society,
a California State University Professor noted that the actions of the
Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and
quoted by our friend George Bush were reported as “being unhelpful”.
Sharon would be classified as a war criminal if the same acts were
committed by parties Bush considers terrorists.
post Sept 11 – the definition of terrorism has changed drastically.
Primarily NA media and CNN decide who is a terrorist and what constitutes
acts of terrorism.
as I stand here, there is non-stop rhetoric about global war against
terrorism but terrorism continues un-abated in many parts of the world.
fact in the Middle East and Afghanistan terrorism has exacerbated since
four of our best – 4 young Canadian peacekeepers were killed but this
was reported in NA media as “friendly fire”.
think for a moment if roles were reversed – would this not have been
called an act of terror?
friends – the events remain the same – the narrative and images change
as you cross the Atlantic. I’ve recently been there and seen how the
same incident can be reported in entirely different ways by CNN and in
Europe and the Middle East.
Galtung, professor of peace studies and consultant for many UN agencies
says “there are two different ways of thinking about, looking at,
describing and ultimately writing about the same set of events. One, from
a peacemaking perspective and the other from a sensational perspective.”
I, as a media consultant, were to report on terrorism by implicating say
the Muslim world, the Arabs, the Taliban and anyone “over there”, this
is news and would be given air time and space in print media.
However, if I ever wished to address the root underlying causes of terrorism, maybe suggesting that there is more than the eye sees, further implying that all Western governments are not totally innocent in these war game – then media would have no time for me.‘
Said in his book Covering Islam explains that Media are essentially profit
seeking corporations and therefore understandably have an interest in
promoting some images over others.
South East Asia, great disparities exist between countries with respect
media access, information, dissemination and modern technology. Sadly many
brave journalists have been silenced in trying to report facts and truth
essence, to get an accurate assessment of media and world events, we have
to read not just NA literature and listen to CNN but we must access
alternate media across the globe and read the small print.
bottom line is that Terrorism remains unchanged – only the way it’s
reported in media has changed.
end once again with the words of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that
media must be neither cowed by threats nor become a mere mouthpiece of
patriotic sentiments or inflammatory opinion.
the media must search for and publicize the truth; present information and
views impartially; consider their words and images carefully and uphold
high standards of professional conduct.
The program concluded with questions from the audience.