Terrorism, according to the UN General Assembly, involves: “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for any purposes”. Although it has existed prior to mass media, new technologies allowed the spread of terrorism in a mutual relationship and gave more prestige to these. In such, terrorists look for three common universal objectives: attention, recognition and legitimacy. Terrorism has gained priority in TV media due to its visual coverage; the more sensational are the visuals, the more the story becomes significant to the broadcast agent. The media has been accused of promoting terrorism by stressing violence, fear and an uncertain future.
With the massive evolution in media, which evolved a concept of “Emotional Intelligence”, relying on the use of any information subjected to rectification, simplification and adjustment to suit a particular story, terrorism has similarly changed. Terrorism , as such, is becoming a product of freedom, particularly freedom of the press. The media’s extensive coverage has changed domestic and foreign policies of the targeted states, violence became the official language and war the predicted conclusion. A perfect example for this is the 9/11 attacks where the story was covered immediately; War on Terror was launched against a transparent cell which operates anywhere and everywhere. The USA has also reconsidered its foreign policies under “The Project for the New American Century” and “Pax Americana”.
Terrorists are well aware of mass media and recognise that new novelty stories must be disseminated every now and then. The more these groups understand the media, the more they will receive coverage; the relationship is based on temptation and mutual benefits. It is, thus, argued that these groups always search for the next target, how to make the attack more violent in order to attract as much media coverage as possible. Because we tend to trust what we see, terrorists search for the opportunity to disseminate their messages to broader audience and the media allowed the spread of fear and concern especially among the western world. Terrorists seek the attention of the mass media, the public, and decision makers is the raison d’être behind modern terrorism’s increasingly shocking violence .Accordingly, the media worked on “personifying” the messages of terrorists. In such, it publicly “humanise the people involved in the news story and create an opportunity for the audience to feel more personally involved”.
Classification of Relationships between the Media and Terrorists
Nevertheless, the relationship between them can be mixed and touch one or more views; one has to bear in mind government position in terms of classifying the media-terrorist relationship. The media is often accused for trading with terrorists at the expense of national and international security often because it does not aim to analyse and explain to the audience the reasons behind the attacks, but only spreads messages of violence and cause a civil unrest.
For instance, Al-Qaeda’s relationship with the media is classified as a media oriented and complete breakaway. A complete breakaway is seen in Al-Qaeda’s relationship with Western Media which is regarded as the target enemy along with the western public.
The second is a media oriented relationship between Al Qaeda’s relationship and Arab Muslim Medias. Giving that they are part of the region, al Qaeda groups uses these Medias to transmit their massages and to try and gain more legitimacy with the use of religion. Nonetheless, the enemy here is not only the west, but also heads of governments within the Arab Muslim world whom Al Qaeda views as “Enemies of God and Islam”, not only for having ties with the western world, but also for not introducing a theocrat state with the rule of Islamic Sharia. For example after the Arab Spring, videos from Al Qaeda were disseminated, in which its leaders congratulated Arab populations for the success of Islam “Islamic Spring”.
Considering Al Qaeda, Arab Medias such as: Al Jazeera is becoming a transmitter mediator and benefits from this relationship in its marketing. Al Jazeera has gained more popularity across the world for being unbiased on the aftermath of 9/11 and also for focusing on the human right abuse during the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. In this concept, Al Qaeda credits Al Jazeera for adapting a pro- Arab Muslim policy especially in sensitive issues of Iraq and Palestine and this has lead to the claim that the relationship between the two is suspicious (Soriano: 2008).
Both the West and Al-Qaeda are seen to go through a war tool; the victim is one, everyone, The internet, unlike the TV, is cautiously used by these groups in order to secure their location. According to US intelligence, the attack of 2006 Damadola in which some key members of Al Qaeda were killed was carried out after breaking through the network (Soriano: 2008). Nevertheless, it could be argued that the internet is more effective to use and can reach wider audiences within shorter time, by this, the group can guarantee that their messages have not been edited or distorted. This argument would come to the conclusion that, once becoming unpopular, TV stations would have to attract audiences again by compromising with these groups to disseminate their messages without filter. The issue to be proposed here is the extent to which these stations may go far and broadcast visuals that audiences are not used to. Another danger of cyber terrorism is its ability to reach the audience, communicate with them and tempt the younger generation to join their cause. In a BBC Documentary, Generation Jihad exemplified how these groups are able to brainwash and tempt the very young Muslims living in the western world and transform them into reliable international terrorists.