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International Terrorism:Role ,Responsibility and Operation of Media Channles
Pragyan:AJournal of Mass Communication (2008)
  • Ratnesh Dwivedi, Mr
"Terrorism" is a term that cannot be given a stable defintion. Or rather, it can, but to do so forstalls any attempt to examine the major feature of its relation to television in the contemporary world. As the central public arena for organising ways of picturing and talking about social and political life, TV plays a pivotal role in the contest between competing defintions, accounts and explanations of terrorism. Which term is used in any particular context is inextricably tied to judgemements about the legitimacy of the action in question and of the political system against which it is directed. Terms like "guerrilla" "partisan" or "freedom fighter" carry positive connotations of a justified struggle against an occupying power or an oppressive state; to label an action as "terrorist" is to consign it to illegitimacy. For most of the television age, from the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the deployment of positive and negative political labels was an integral part of Cold War politics and its dualistic view of the world. "Terrorism" was used extensively to characterise enemies of the United States and its allies, as in President Reagan's assertion in 1985, that Libya, Cuba, Nicaragua and North Korea constituted a "confederation of terrorist states" intent on undermining American attempts "to bring stable and democratic government" to the developing world. Conversely, "friendly" states, like Argentina, could wage a full scale internal war against "terrorism", using a defintion elastic enough to embrace almost anyone who criticised the regime or held unacceptable opinions, and attract comparatively little censure despite the fact that this wholesale use of state terror killed and maimed many more civilians than the more publicised incidents of "retail" terror--assasinations, kidnappings and bombings. Television journalism in Britain has faced a particular problem in reporting "the Irish Question" since the Republican movement has adopted a dual strategy using both the ballot box and the bullet, pursuing its claim for the ultimate reunification of Ireland electorally, through the legal political party, Sinn Fein, and militarily, through the campaign waged by the illegal Irish Republican Army. Added to which, the British state's response has been ambiguous. Ostensibly, as Prime Minister Thatcher argued in 1990, although "they are at war with us" "we can only fight them with the civil law." Then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, admitted in 1989 that, in his view "with the Provisional is nothing to do with a political cause any more. They are professional killers....No political solution will cope with that. They just have to be extirpated". Television journalists' attempts to explore these contradictions produced two of the bitterest peacetime confrontations between British broadcasters and the British state. Television's ability to strike this balance is not just a question for news, current affairs and documentary production however. The images and accounts of terrorism offered by televsion fiction and entertainment are also important in orchestrating the continual contest between the discourse of government and the state, the discourses of legitimated opposition groups, and the discourses of insurgent movements. This struggle is not simply for visibility--to be seen and heard. It is also for credibility--to have one's views discussed seriously and one's case examined with care. The communicative weapons in this battle are unevenly distributed however. News is a relatively closed form of television programming. It priviledges the views of spokespeople for governments and state agencies and generally organises stories to converge around officially sanctioned resolutions. Other programme forms, documentaries for example, are potentially at least, more open. They may allow a broader spectrum of perspectives into play, including those that voice alternative or oppositional viewpoints, they may stage debates and pose awkward questions rather than offering familiar answers. Television in a democratic society requires the greatest possible diversity of open programme forms if it is to address the issues raised by terrorism in the complexity they merit. Whether the emerging forces of technological change, in production and reception, channel proliferation, increased competition for audiences and transnational distribution, will advance or block this ideal is a question well worth examining.
  • International Terrorism,
  • Television Coverage,
  • BBC,
  • CNN,
  • Al Jajeera
Publication Date
Winter December, 2008
Citation Information
Ratnesh Dwivedi. "International Terrorism:Role ,Responsibility and Operation of Media Channles" Pragyan:AJournal of Mass Communication Vol. 6 Iss. 2 (2008)
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