Accuracy in Media

Please forget about his sovereignty-sapping and global tax ideas for a moment. The U.N. Chief has come up with a good idea for how the media can help us win the battle against terrorists. In a new report, Annan suggests that reporters simply stop interviewing terrorists and publishing and broadcasting their messages of hate. In other words, censor the terrorists!

It sounds simplistic. But I think this idea should have wide appeal. He’s not saying the media should quit covering their activities. He is saying that media should not give a platform to terrorists to spew their venom and garbage.

I don’t know what was going on in Annan’s mind, but I’ve got to think that he was thinking about Al-Jazeera, the mouthpiece for al Qaeda. Annan says that civil society, which presumably includes the press, can help curtail terrorism by “countering” terror statements “that glorify mass murder and martyrdom.” Al-Jazeera does just that, glorifying the violence in a way that encourages others to join in.

On the other hand, and this is another good recommendation, Annan says the media can highlight the “consequences of terrorism and its impact on victims?” This does not mean simply showing the aftermath of a terrorist attack, thereby scaring the intended target audience. That is what the terrorists want. It means reporters should do thoughtful stories about the victims and educate the public about what would happen if the terrorists win.

A Washington Times headline alleged that Annan was proposing some kind of  “U.N. media code,” as if the world body would intervene in news operations. Something called the World Press Freedom Committee said it wanted no part of “U.N.-sanctioned censorship.” But that’s not the issue. While he did speak of a “ban” on terrorist interviews, Annan discussed such a measure in the context of  “voluntary codes of conduct for journalists.” He went on to say that the U.N. is willing to work with press groups on the subject.

I don’t think the U.N. could add much to this, in terms of working on the language of such a code, but the idea of voluntarily refusing to air terrorist statements, videos, and so forth makes complete sense. As experts have warned, the terror statements serve an ideological purpose because they are part of a battle plan and inspire more anti-American violence. 

The problem, of course, has not just been Al-Jazeera, but almost all of the major U.S. television networks, which purchase and re-air the material as if it were “news.” They are doing what the terrorists want them to do.

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