Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Publicise The Bad Guys?

Last week's shooting spree in southern France, which saw Islamist extremist Mohamed Merah murder soldiers and Jewish children, caused outrage across the country.
The gunman filmed his actions with a camera around his neck: footage was later sent to international news channel Al-Jazeera. As seems to be the norm these days, it was expected Al-Jazeera would jump on the ratings bandwagon and play the video...I'm pleased to see it did not. In fact it announced emphatically that "in accordance with Al-Jazeera's code of ethics, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents'' (perhaps it should also be noted that France warned any broadcaster airing the video would have its signal jammed). Given that the channel owed much of its early popularity to showing recordings of Al-Qaeda's late chief Osama bin Laden, this is a most positive reversal of form, and one that should be considered by all media outlets.
Too many times in the recent past, we've seen media outlets play footage simply because they CAN: they seem to have not considered the downstream effects. A classic example of this was the nutter US preacher Terry Jones, who planned to burn Qu'rans (Sept.2010) to mark the 9/11 anniversary and to "make America wake up". The riots in the Arab world and resultant deaths would probably not have happened (or at least not to such an extent) if media channels had not publicised his scheme.
Here in NZ, we see the same thing year after year at our national celebrations at Waitangi. Footage is almost exclusively of angry protesters and violence...though I'm sure there must be SOMETHING positive to cover (?).
I'm not advocating media outlets serve us up prissy sanitised flowers-and-kittens news every night (a la Anne Murray), but it would be commendable if they all published a Code of Ethics...and then STUCK to it! Publicising the actions of the worst in our society merely encourages more to crawl out from under their rocks...

No comments: