Online News Coverage of Terrorism: Between Informing the Public and Spreading Fear

Author: Melita Poler Kovačič, Nataša Logar


To propagate fear, terrorists primarily use social media. Nevertheless, traditional mass media remain very important public sources of information on terrorists’ violent acts. Terrorism acts have high news value, so it is pertinent to consider how news media should report them. In the present paper, we fi rst discuss the dilemma between the public’s right to be informed about such attacks on the one hand and the value of security on the other. The case of the abduction and execution of Tomislav Salopek, which took place in 2015, was studied. An analysis of 57 news reports on the event from the fi ve most-visited news websites in Slovenia showed that several guidelines that should be followed when covering terrorism were not given enough consideration by the media. Among them were invading privacy of the victim’s family and providing only superfi cial, simplifi ed analysis, with no root cause analysis of the act in question. In the conclusion part, we argue that this was partially caused by the market orientation of the observed websites. In addition, we discuss how such unethical reporting may be rooted in journalists and editors’ lack of knowledge about the possible adverse consequences of their actions.

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