Is there a ‘right’ way to cover terrorism?

Is there a ‘right’ way to cover terrorism?

This week, news managers from Pakistan’s eight major private television channels voluntarily met to generate guidelines to govern media coverage of terrorism. The initiative was in response to public criticism of the independent media, which has been broadcasting increasingly graphic and disturbing images live from the scenes of terror attacks.

The representatives of the media outlets have agreed to show less gory images and to utilise a time-delay mechanism during live coverage so that producers can monitor content being broadcast. Shots of injured or emotionally distressed people will also be selected with due caution. In the event of live coverage of hostage situations, the channel managers decided to take necessary steps to ensure that no footage broadcast could help the hostage-takers or endanger the lives of hostages in captivity. There was also a unanimous call for improved reporter and camera crew training.

However, many Pakistanis believe this is a case of too little, too late.

Writing to, Sohail Abdullah asks:

Isn’t it too late now to restrict the airing of grahic content covering terrorism? In my humble opinion, graphic content, which we as a nation are quite accustomed to, is not restricted to [the aftermath] of a terrorist attack. Whether it is a Lollywood flick, front page of national newspapers, especially in local languages, we are exposed to the deceased after bad accidents, at crime scenes etc. All of these fall in the same category. No one in this country is bothered about a lot of things. Type Pakistan in your favourite web search engine and every single page shows horrific pictures from our homeland.

Do you think Pakistanis have been desensitised to images of violence and terrorism? Has the media addressed the matter of terrorism coverage too late? Can these measures help respect the dignity and privacy of Pakistanis who fall victim to terror attack? Or are such measures a form of censorship or media manipulation?

The following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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49 Responses to “Is there a ‘right’ way to cover terrorism?”

  1. Gojib Erries says:

    I believe that the media should not be censored. The public should be able to view everything that terrorists are capable of but also put focus and the lives and victims that terrorists affect.

  2. Satya says:

    Personally, when you put restrictions on news then it’s not news, only an opinion. Perhaps a balance should be drawn. If channels show bad things, they should double-up on showing good things also. Or how about a “lessons learned” segment, a discussion and step towards resolution.

  3. Shafiqa khan says:

    In every country media playing vital role, like in Pakistan the step is taken is good. Media got freedom, but it had itself also made the bad image for Pakistan by showing cartoons of political leaders and so on…

    Well this step is good..



  4. Bashir Hussain says:

    Well, every body is performing his duty in order to lead a green Pakistan, so as you people broadcasting situations live from its domain, describing situations, telecasting the imaginations and thoughts of the people, but all these would get ruin if the capital doesn’t listen anybody, even though media, so this is the place of thinking that how to take our rights from the Capital, who is not listening anybody.

  5. Agha Ghulam Nabi says:

    The meeting of Media Managers is of least importance at this stage as I consider. But being the true visionary of Pakistan, I would stress media to unite and show up the true face of Terrorism and the faces behind terrorism.

    Atleast this Govt. (both provincial and Federal) have started fight against image-breaking agents who are creating such suicide bombers in the name of Islam.

  6. Hamza Arain says:

    I believe this is a step in the right direction because realization is the first step towards improvement. Another point that should be brought into their notice is the tagging of ‘Muslim’ with the word ‘Terrorists’ worldwide. I have never read any foreign media reporting some thing as ‘Christian serial killer’ or ‘Jew rapist’ etc. By making this mistake we are associating Islam with terrorism in every ones mind although Islam severely condemns terrorism.

  7. Faria says:

    Criticism is easy – productive improvement is hard. Atleast this group of media managers have realized their mistakes and are voluntarily trying to take steps towards better news. Its better late than never.

  8. Shaikh Mohommad says:

    Graphic details are necessary to show the insensitivity of the Government Armed forces.
    Remember the Lal Masjid massacre where innocent students were deliberately murdered and no enquiry has been held and media was kept out of this massacre. Now the Pakistan Army is continuing its bombing spree in Waziristan and no media is allowed to verify the claims of the Pakistan Army. When will Pakistan Army be sent to barracks? Is there a possibility of Pakistani Army’s economic empire to be dismantled?.

  9. While I am for media’s freedom but at the same time there are some irritations when the newscasters asks their reporters in the field the silly questions which gives an impression that channels representative at a certain location is a controller of everything what is happening and that he should answer all those questions for which he does not yet or have no answers. For instance, if five people have been killed, are the hospitals ready to receive dead bodies, are the hospital staff on duty, is government agencies taking action and so on. How can you expect that a reporter of the channels is more powerful and informed of everything, like he is more than the law enforcement agencies as he demonstrates he knows everything. This is hypocrisy and misleading, Media has to be realistic and the anchors or newscasters should ask relevant questions.

    Some media people seem to be pro or against some political parties. So there are lot of contradictions that media should look into for the benefit of the audience.

  10. Ahmed says:

    We need more freelance journalism to air the truth of what’s happening in Pakistan, and show the world what attrocities the Pakistan goverment continues to impose on the people of Waziristan through the Pakistan led, American war on terror.

  11. raki says:

    Media should be free to publish/broadcast whatever helps them perform their professional duties within the legal framework regarding privacy and national security etc. If some segment contains something that they think some viewers might find offensive they should post a warning to that effect before airing that segment.

    Viewers always have the choice to not watch what they don’t want to.

  12. Ibrahim Raja, Stockholm Sweden says:

    Media should be transparent, honest, daring and focused on Islamic Republic of Pakistan not “like Pakistan first”.

  13. Mab Turan says:

    Media should cover terrorism in a manner that focuses on the victims and their long term suffering.

  14. Owais U. Khan says:

    Personally I am in favor of freedom of media, media should be free to cover all hidden things which are needed to disclose because in Pakistan we hide all things, Yes media should not use such painful movement for their publicity (few channels always make stories rather to broadcast simple incident report) also there should be a cautioned warning before showing painful images like dead body, wounded peoples so that people who don’t want to be upset may change channel.

  15. A.A.Qureshi says:

    The freedom of media to use it in positive purposes for the betterment of the country is the right way.

    The problems will remain always and to tackle them is responsibility of the state. To safe guard the community and territory is also for the government. It is good not to publicize the thinking of the enemies of the country. Whoever wants to destroy the country is enemy. Better to focus attention on economic, educational, and community development matters. Focus on constructive and positive matters.

  16. Muhammad Akhter, Phularwan (Sargodha) says:

    My honorable friends Mr. Chandra from India and Mr. Akmal Ijaz and many others have stressed on the point that Media is creating violence in act of terrorism. Friends it means that every thing which is shown is creating violence. You all must keep in mind the benefits of media for example Judiciary movement. Every one forgets the role of the western media.

  17. Ahmad, Germany says:

    Generally it is believed that in the Western countries the press has more freedom. During my very long stay in Germany, if have found that this is not true. In Germany, if you write just a Letter to the Editor, your letter would not be published. Similarly the Letters are not published in American Magazines and Newspapers, if you just slightly criticize the Jewish Lobby in the US. So the press freedom is just a farce. The people in Pakistan are being betrayed by the foreign ratings. Do not believe all publications and ratings of the Western media.

  18. Shakil Khan says:

    When showing distressing images like corpse, viewer should be cautioned so that those people who may not want to be distressed may turn off TV or change channel.

  19. Chandra-India says:

    Not sure about Pakistani TV but in India, news channels repeatedly broadcasting the terror news (of India or Pakistan or elsewhere) throughout the day-same clips again and again. I am sure, it would be similar in Pakistan. This is surely spreading hatred environment against terrorism however people are more freighted as well. This kind of coverage gives terrorist some more confidence to kill more innocent people and create an environment where people become afraid of going out.

    We need to learn from the mentality of the foreign media people. They show the news once or twice of such incidence and then stops coverage. Our Media has to change its way of covering such fateful events and also the viewers should stops following those coverages again and again.
    Moreover, its the people who takes such news with utmost importance. Their is an urgency to show the maturity on how to take such new within our community/family and pass on information to the younger generation so that they get a fair understanding on what is right and what is wrong.

  20. asmat jamal says:

    Pakistani Media committed lot many mistakes, being newcomers, not used to independence of media , corporate interests and some time vested interest. Some time the anchors promote a certain political line. On account of terrorism, they kept the nation divided and initially gave lot of coverage to the terrorists ideology. Some channels were trying to project terrorists as hero’s. Thanks to the bold action of Army, political parties the real face of the terrorists was unveiled.

  21. Perdeep Kumar says:

    I also Prefer media will be free to cover all hidden things which is necessary to disclose because in our country we hide all things even death toll rates in any bomb blast or an accident. This is not fair.

    Everyone has right to move freely. Specially tell us what we are doing? it would be right or wrong. I think its best policy to save our democracy.

  22. ashraf says:

    The world knows very well the conspiracy against the state. Inshaallah all types of conspiracy will be defeated in the long run and Pakistan will emerge as a peaceful state and Pakistani’s as a peace loving nation, showing due respect to all, irrespective of religion, creed, caste and language.
    god bless all. lets hope for the best.

  23. Raagi says:

    I think media should be given free access to what is happening in Waziristan. It is the only hope for the people to know the real situation. Our country has a long history of misleading the public. That is the reason why we are very unrealistic and get into one mess after the other. Let us know what the army is doing or not doing. How many innocents have been killed or are missing. Let us know first hand what the people of Waziristan and Balochistan want. Otherwise it will be too late to handle the situation later. I feel we will end up with an unavoidable civil war.

  24. Muhammad Ilyas says:

    The media is not sincere with the people who loose their lives in terrorism nor it is sincere with the relatives of the victims. For proof I say that media shows the scenes of a bomb blast, in which so many people are killed and so many are wounded. But after a few seconds you see and listen music from your television. I reveals that media is showing these scenes only as advertisement. Why we people have not dare to speak or listen the facts.

  25. andyloubenqiang says:

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