It is rare to hear a journalist call for censorship but there are occasions when the press must surely choose to regulate itself.
The beheadings of journalists by Islamic State (IS) have, quite rightly aroused feelings of disgust and outrage in right-minded people around the world. Nothing can condone the appalling behaviour of IS but who does it benefit to see these murders in glorious technicolour?
At the time of going to press, two American journalists have been slaughtered in this barbaric way, American newsmen James Foley and Steven Sotloff. A heavy threat remains over an unnamed British man, believed to be an aid worker, who Islamic State has identified as its next victim, unless certain ‘demands’ are met.
Their executioner, believed to be British, is at the centre of a frenzy of UK press speculation, with some of the tackiest tabloids sending ‘investigative journalists’ to London mosques and Muslim associations in an attempt to discover the identity of the murderer they have nicknamed “Jihadi John”. Who would this help? Certainly not his probably innocent family or, one suspects, British Muslims in general.
That these savage events have taken place at all is bad enough but the western media’s preoccupation with every detail of the videos Islamic State has chosen to release is now bordering on the ghoulish. The frenzy of emotion provoked is exactly what Islamic
State was hoping to achieve by releasing the videos to newsrooms across the globe, for media ‘experts’ to compare and contrast their diabolical contents on screen and online. What point is there in slaughtering innocent foreigners if nobody is watching or listening? “I’m back Obama,” the executioner says to camera, as his second innocent victim kneels before him, awaiting his grisly fate.
Lets face it, when it becomes possible to address the President of the United States directly and within earshot of the entire world as long as you hold a dismembered head in your hands, then that might reasonably be seen as some encouragement to continue to do so. n
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6 The Middle East September 2014