The Mass Media’s Role in Terrorism


To begin with, it is necessary to emphasize that terrorism is not just taking hostages and explosions in crowded places. Originally, terrorism is the ideology, a type of struggle against the world, and against the opposing system. Consequently, as any ideology it requires informational support. The most powerful support may be offered only by mass media. It requires its own methods of propaganda, as in general, terrorism is often regarded as a form of persuasive communication. Some researchers regard it is the propaganda of the deed


Taking into account the strongest necessity of propaganda, terrorists use mass media instruments in tactical and strategic purposes. These purposes entail the speeches by terrorist and Muslim leaders, addressed to the citizens of the Arab world. These speeches (if of terroristic character) are aimed at touching the religious feelings and dignity of the whole Arab world, and originating aggression against the western world.

As Anderson (2003) emphasized in his research: “While the mass media cover terrorism at a rate of nine incidents per day worldwide, the press uses the term ” terrorist” sparingly, preferring such neutral terms as guerrilla, rebel, and paramilitary, or using no value-laden adjectives at all. This raises the question of the effectiveness of terrorism. The press gives terrorists publicity but often omits the propaganda message that terrorists would like to see accompanying reports of their exploits, thus reducing terrorism to mere crime or sabotage.” Thus, it is necessary to emphasize that media, which do not support terrorism do not position it as aggression, representing everything in neutral tones.

As for the similarity with propaganda, it should be stated that terrorism is the issue, which is based on properly planned propaganda plan, and uses the same techniques for persuading people in the necessity of terrorism. It is not an informative issue, it is expressed in verbal and nonverbal terms. Consequently, the resort to the mass media tools and instruments is the crucial moment in the terroristic activity.

However, there is the reserve side of the coin exists. Terrorists use not only their own media tools for propaganda. They may also use open and unprejudiced sources. The cases of taking the journalists as hostages are rather common. Thus, terrorists use these hostages as the way of announcing their claims and requirements. From this point of view, it should be stated that any media may be used for the goals of terrorists, even unwillingly.

As Schaffert (2005) stated in his research, journalists often become the active partakers in numerous violent events, and terroristic acts in particular. It is stated, that the threat for the journalists, and the harm for their lives is one of the greatest concerns for the civil and political activists in Europe and the USA. They claim that journalists, s the representatives of the free flow information and the torches in the dusk of the information, deserve respectful treatment and protection of the whole of society and its political and other institutions. Any violent attack against them is an attack against the whole system and its values.


Finally, it should be stated that mass media and terrorism are closely linked to each other. Originally, terrorism is absolutely ineffective without media, as the main aim is not to kill, but to make the murder known to everyone.


Anderson, T. (2003). Terrorism and Censorship: The Media in Chains. Journal of International Affairs, 47(1), 127-136.

Schaffert, R. W. (Ed.). (2005). Media Coverage and Political Terrorists: A Quantitative Analysis. New York: Praeger Publishers.

Veer, P. V. & Munshi, S. (Eds.). (2004). Media, War, and Terrorism: Responses from the Middle East and Asia. New York: Routledge.

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