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. An Indian says:

    My Pakistani Brothers,

    We feel very sorry about your loss and wishes you luck for all your efforts to eliminate terrorism.
    I believe, Media plays vital role in uniting people and informing the fellow country men about the facts. I recalled couple of interviews of President Musharraf about defending Taliban and seperating them from al-qaida. Now we all know what Taliban stands for.
    We are all with you and wish that the brother we lost in partition shines again. We know you can do it !! God bless you all and long live Pakistan.

    Your Brother

  2. Inayat Hussain Turi says:

    Yes it is too late but very wise act. I still remember the footage of Islamabad sucide attack in PPP Rally in favour of chief justice in which Dr Israr Shah was crying in pain for help and the media covering the scene, was exploiting the situations. It was so agonizing that we lost confidence in so called free media. Freedom with out responsibilty is nothing more then blackmailing

  3. Muhammad Akhter 0300-6063425 Phularwan (Sargodha) says:

    Dear friends! we all are here to debate on the subjected title.
    I think there is a very simple and perfect way to get ride of the terrorism. We just will have to play our national role like; 1. We should become very carefull
    2. We will have to remove all inferiorties of those people they are doing this all.
    3. Our Society (We) must finish the un-merit policies.
    4. Justice for all must not be our moto but the act also.
    5. We should not blame to media or any other for this all because they are showing us the truth. My all honorable friends stressed on this point that media is increasing terrorism attacks becuase they show everything. It does not mean that who is watching the media.
    Pray for Pakistan and be honst in your professions. Take care all of you.

  4. Ali Haider says:

    The reporting must not leak critical information to the wrong doers. This is a very good step taken by the media giants in Pakistan. Media has so far played a very important role in Pakistan.

    I would also like to point out here, that a petition must be signed and foreign media channels must also be forced to not display this cirtical information on their website while reporting. It often seems as if they are trying to actually aid the wrong-doers by telling them that the Army is coming from these three directions and have passed this many miles into this city, for instance.

    Those who want news, like me, are sufficed by knowing that we have acquired an important base “after acquiring it” not at every step while acquiring it. Anyone that gives more than this information is not doing any good to our armed forces who are losing lives so that we can stay in peace.

    Long Live Pakistan.
    Long Live Pakistan Army.

  5. Nadeem Khan says:

    These attacks are to terrorize people. Reporting these attacks is fine as long as people who are fighting terrorism are projected as heroes; people died as victims of a crime and people who have committed this act as criminals. It is very simple.

    When media believes in neutrality while reporting terrorism and shows them as simply a conflict between two parties then terrorists try to claim success by attacking more. I believe that Media is more responsible for current situation in Pakistan than anyone else.

    Media has the power to change people mind, why media has not done enough to inform people of this terror and rallied them against such terrorism.

    Most people follow and not lead. When Media decides to stay neutral, most people who are simply follower, are now confused and there is a debate on who is right – which seemed to be the case in Pakistan.

  6. Malik Akif says:

    I would say, this is a very good step.

    Mostly our media acts so immature, leaking such a sensitive information sometimes to the world making other nations of the world laugh at us.

    It seems as if there is nothing of the “kind” patriotism in our media. Western media replicates its country’s foreign polices. But our media!!!!

    I have stopped watching Pakistani News Channels. They are just full of depression and nothing else.

    Malik Akif

  7. Raja Afzal Rehman Khan says:

    Graphic images is a minor issue. What needs to be done is to STOP and PREVENT the independent media spreading WRONG and INCORRECT information and baseless RUMORS and perceptions that spread like wild fire and non-sense that people tend to believe.

    There is so much non-sense and misunderstanding among the general public that no one knows the reality anymore. Everyone is ASSUMING and making up judgments based on non-sense and zero facts!


  8. SQ Khan says:

    We want to know what is happening in our border now. Media should get access to the South Wazirstan and expose the matter. I am sure 100’s of civilians are being killed along with the militants as its impossible to distinguish militans and villagers since Militants dont wear uniform and hide in the settlement. How it is possible only the militants get killed and no army men ?. We must know what is happening to our soldiers as well. There is a big humanitarian situation being covered up by the government for vested interests. Media should be free and unbiased so should be the coverage.

  9. Ahmed Jamil Khan says:

    Mr Waqs there is no suggestion that truth not be told. Truth is truth and it cannot be moderated under any guidelines either Islamic or otherwise. The issue is more complex than just broadcasting the truth, TRUTH is not “News & Analysis” media tends to go well beyond socially accepted norms. It is media’s responsibility that “facts should be told without any dilution” keeping in mind that they have no control on who is watching, it could be 90 years old man or a 10 years old child with impressionable personality, people in the end will always draw conclusion based on their previous believes, but noting but truth be told without wrappers of analysis and speculation under the cloak of FREEDOM of SPEECH.

  10. Akmal Ijaz Warraich(Phularwan,Sargodha) says:

    First if we remind the meaning of media in our mind and then we observe the recent role of media specialy in our country(Pakistan) then it will clear that media is also involve in act of terrorism( use of power and spread terror). I will agree with media if it will effort for integrity. Because our country has need of only one thing and that thing is integrity.

  11. waqas says:

    Wow!! Looks like the freedom loving media have also realised that the idea of freedom of speech is a flawed one and limitations are always neeeded.

    Its so strange when islamists say that everything should be moderated according to islam these same media tycoons scream that this is violation of freedom, but now they themselves have realised the idea of freedoms is a flawed myth!!

  12. GHAZAN KHAN says:

    The only way out to control journalism and media trials is to enforce the law of damages and defamation by our courts and to try such cases speedily. How come our media persons become matured overnight by self restraint
    by showing terrorism, their meetings and interviews with terrorists, their unconfirmed reports and their emotional bursts against political leaders. Our media has become a vogue media. All our private TV channels unconciously help terrorists to serve their cause of terrorising people of this country by giving much air to news which aim at encouragement of the enemies of Paksiatn and demoralising those who love Paksitan. It is also very astonishing that media which always enjoy to criticise others can not bear a slight critism upon itself. When during a parliamentary debate some parliamentarians objected to media’s role the media persons joined hands to rebuke such efforts in a very ugly fasion. This shows the immaturity and lack of sagacity on the part of these anchors and media men who are used to arrange their “baithaks” every night in prime time and mock our leaders to whom we have given mandates, in otherwords these media gatherings mock us “the awam” and indirectly scorn us for our wrong decision of voting them.

  13. Aamir Ali says:

    Suicide terrorism and militant raids hit Pakistan since early 2006, and now these media folks realize that gore on TV is a bad thing. Now its too late now to pursue these guidelines.

  14. Ahmed Jamil Khan says:

    As I read and think more about the root cause of our media dilemma, it appears to me that after the gag for years the freedom of last few years has unfortunately also brought commercial pressures. This is probably one of the major factors for sensational coverage and bit of negativity (being negative is easy) additionally due to this years of gag we have not produced professional anchors and mature critics, at present there is little difference between a typical taxi driver and most media anchors, but I guess this is improving and we have to be positive. It is great to see that our public sentiment has been felt by media and it is not long when politicians will also feel this sentiment via the airwaves, although major parts of our population might be illiterate but they are not deaf or blind.

  15. It’s a right decision that the media managers have taken own their on. Had such a decision been taken by the Government the media would have taken it otherway round:restriction on free media. It’s good our media has realized sensivity of the matter. Though late but it’s better come late than never.


  16. maz says:

    In this case its not too late and the media has finally woken up to its social responsibility. This code of conduct needs to be revisited time and again to ensure that it is reponding to the dynamic political and security environment of Pakistan.

    What is further required by the media outlets is to be neutral in their approach rather than the sensationalism that they are propogating to get ratings and advertising (which advertiser wants to be associated with grim news coverage anyway? apparently many!)

    We dont want baby FOXES in Pakistan ;)

  17. Mehroz Siraj says:

    I think that this new policy taken up by the independent media should be encouraged and supported for a variety of reasons.

    Firstly, let me answer this question of why was such a policy taken up so late…
    Most people heading television channels today come strictly from a background in print journalism and therefore they had not been exposed to Western style broadcasting techonogy and television ethics . They needed their fair share of time to learn from their mistakes and it is great to see that they have.

    Those comparing our media to that of USA and India fail to understand that electronic media industries in those countries have now come of age, but yet they are littered with unnecessary bias and journalistic inaccuracies. This is best demonstrated by the media coverage in these countries about the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and the Mumbai attacks in India. Their journalistic discrepancies need not be repeated here.

    Its glad to see that our media did not repeat these mistakes at the time of assassination of Benazir Bhutto, or the GHQ siege, etc.

    When it comes to taking the government on task for security failures, our media, i believe has been forthright and well focused, for which it shall be praised.

    As it goes about displaying of gory images and disturbing violence on TV, as i have said before, television journalists required time to learn from their mistakes…..

    Comparing our media from its counterparts in the West and in India, i believe Pakistan’s media scene has been reasonably robust, uniformed and well maintained!!!

  18. s ramji says:

    I feel the Pakistani media has realised it much faster than Indian media. During Mumbai attack various channels vied with each other in showing the movement of commandos giving the Controller of terrorists good opportunity to prolong the seize and inflict heavy damages. The Pakistani media has acted in restraint. India has a lot to learn from the army operation of Pakistan. Recently many channels accompanied the para military units sent to control the Naxals. But foolishly Indian media gave all details for the Naxals to attack the para military forces. Hope other nationals and media will learn appropriate lessons from India and Pakistan media exposures

  19. Zeeshan says:

    I think its a good step by media. Although its too late but viewers will welcome it with good disposition.

  20. Aftab Kenneth Wilson says:

    What is a right way or what is a wrong way to cover all terror news are well known by our Media Houses and those who are related with them. The point is here that who gives them the authority to suggest our Foreign Policy and for that matter some of our sensitive matters. All Sub Judice matters are debated openly in the media, why, is there any ground work being prepared for some one stepping in? Who are pulling their strings ? the so called Intellectuals be wise with your country. Dont give any lending hand to any one, rather come up with an idia of exposing all not one or few people. Bring into picture everyone, right from 1950. Dont spare anyone. Stop following the tune of Flute.

  21. Amir Khan Mohammed says:

    Mr. Niaz

    What exactly is positive about Pakistan for media to report?

    If New York has the highest crime record — that is because even a pickpocket or a small mugging incident is reported and recorded. How many murders are reported in Pakistan let alone pickpockets, robberies and muggings. You would be a laughing stock if you compare yourself to USA and India.

    Any media report shold be factual and truth based on established facts and nothing but that.

  22. Ahmed Jamil Khan says:

    It is certainly a good step forward, the next stage for the media is to give positive image of the country as much as possible, just like in India country or system is not trashed for sake of discussion, there are many in Pak media who have titles like Dr & Prof. etc but unfortunately they play on words for their viewership and confuse already distressed public. I am not saying the media should lie to public but a balance is required, if there are killers among us then there are many more life savers also, people who give blood and selflessly help in crisis, it is time that media focus on these aspects and tell a more human story rather that total political reporting.

  23. Adeel says:

    Yes it may seem too little too late but it is still a step in the right direction.

  24. Niaz Mohammad says:

    To me this is just a face saving move by the TV channels. New York has highest records of crimes, Afghanistan is practically ruled by warlords/Drug dealers, extremism in India is one the high in the world but their media behaves and not make a BIG stories, by provoking agitation, of such things. Hence media in Pakistan makes no less efforts to destabilize Pakistan. They don’t prefer to air positive image. Shame! on Facebook on Facebook