Publish and be damned? Why we shouldn’t play the terrorists’ news game

The news that 49 people have been murdered in two mosques in New Zealand is appalling.

It is hard to imagine a worse crime.

But this media-literate killer decided to not only live stream the killings but produce a “manifesto” of his ideas too.

This presents a dilemma for news organisations – should they use material created by the killer?

On the one hand it may help explain why the crimes took place, what the motivation of the killer was, and why he chose to act as he did.

On the other, it is clear that he wanted this material transmitted and shared in order to spread his poisonous theories around the world. By using the material journalists risk doing his bidding.

In a breaking news situation, there is an immense temptation to throw on-screen any material from a terror attack.

Footage of dramatic events is the essence of visual news.

But, as I’ve written before, we all have a duty to think twice about using this kind of material.

And that’s not just professional journalists but also social media users who find it troublingly easy to share horrific content.

All of us have to play a part in not spreading hate. And that includes those social media platforms who’ve recently discovered that they do have consciences and a role to play in society.

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Author: Matt Walsh

Journalist

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