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Norway's Agony, and Responsible Reporting

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Last night (22-July-2011) Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent reporting on the terrorist outrage in Norway, speculated that the horrific attack might be "Islamist" inspired with the "al-Qaida" word mentioned.   Further speculation then followed as to the likely reasons. Norway's 400 troops in Afghanistan were advanced as a possible cause why al-Qaida might be responsible.   This morning (23-July-2011) the BBC is reporting a diametrically opposite scenario describing the arrest of a blue-eyed Norwegian as belonging to an extreme rightwing militant group who hate Muslims and multi-culturalism in Norway.   Meanwhile, the Sun's headline this morning (23-July-2011) screams "NORWAY'S   9/11", and above the headline in red capitals "AL-QAEDA' MASSACRE.   It seems Murdoch's Sun has already made up its mind.   Terrorism linked to extremism of any hue is deadly, and reporting it responsibly is paramount.   Churchill's remark, in another context, of "careless talk costs lives" comes to mind.   Extremist groups of any kind are driven by hate. Sensational, inaccurate reporting stokes up this hatred to the point where innocents may suffer, simply because they belong to a certain ethnic or religious group.   The humanity of the individual becomes irrelevant, and the hater may only see ethnicity or religion as a justification for violence or even murder.

In today's Guardian (23-July-2011) the extensive coverage is accompanied by their "Analysis" piece entitled "Who did it is unclear; jihadists suspected". It continues with its speculation for the possible causes for jihadists targeting Norway.   It mentions, as the BBC did, Norwegian troops in Afghanistan, the printing of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Norwegian newspapers etc., as possible reasons. Credit to the Guardian for including the last paragraph, that mentions the possibility of right-wing extremism, which was "largely discounted by state security spokeswoman Janne Kirstiansen".    The reader is thus left to conclude that "al-Qaeda' is more or less the only possibility, particularly since the title of the piece only mentions jihadists.   It seems that the maxim "innocent until proven guilty" has been replaced when it comes to Muslims by "guilty until proven innocent".

These first impressions become so ingrained in many peoples' minds that they become difficult to dislodge by the facts as they subsequently emerge.   Subsequent facts and changes to the story do not register in the minds of the xenophobic and bigoted.   There are still millions in America who believe that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, as a result of distortion and lies by governments, and irresponsible reporting prior to the war.   The total falsehood of that, as we now know, seems to concern them not a jot.

The way international terrorism is portrayed in the media leaves a lot to be desired.   For example, why do the media refer to a group as Islamic or Islamist even when that group is operating in a Muslim country and targeting fellow Muslims, thus leaving the impression that the victims are non-Muslim? Why not simply use the name they give to themselves?   A few months ago I gave a talk to sixth formers in a school in which I mentioned that more Muslims have been victims of al-Qaeda inspired terrorism than non-Muslims; there was astonishment at this fact.  

For the sake of fairness and justice, responsible media outlets must endeavour to do better.   Innocent lives may depend on it.

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Dr Adnan Al-Daini took early retirement in 2005 as a principal lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at a British University. His PhD in Mechanical Engineering is from Birmingham University, UK. He has published numerous applied scientific research (more...)

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Your thoughtful and important analysis. "Western c... by BFalcon on Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 2:24:58 PM
Thank you for the compliments; they are appreciate... by Adnan Al-Daini on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:31:44 AM
Everytime a Muslim person is suspected or implicat... by Zafar Hayat Khan on Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 2:40:10 PM
You are right; but it would be far better to remov... by Adnan Al-Daini on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:51:03 AM
People who kill innocent people all belong to the ... by BFalcon on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 7:34:56 AM
 The "shooter/killer/terrorist" WAS a NATIONA... by John Smith on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 11:30:35 AM
When I posted on opednews quick link Gog and Magog... by John Smith on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 11:00:54 AM
Thank you for giving some much needed perspective ... by Christie on Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 3:02:54 PM
Thank you for these quotes; if only people knew. I... by Adnan Al-Daini on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:24:17 AM
Fussilat Ayah 34 وَلَا تَس-'تَوِي ... by BFalcon on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 7:59:50 AM
It is my considered opinion that the majority... by Donald on Sunday, Jul 24, 2011 at 5:11:32 PM
"It is my considered opinion that the majority of ... by Adnan Al-Daini on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:42:48 AM
Thanks for the well-intended and thoughtful essay.... by John Rachel on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 2:30:50 AM
Although my article appeals to the media to be res... by Adnan Al-Daini on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:18:09 AM
as responsible coverage. Don't bother. The death i... by Mark Sashine on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 9:21:48 AM
Talking about the Arab world to many of my friends... by Adnan Al-Daini on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 10:48:48 AM
People, whoever they are   have absolute... by Mark Sashine on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 10:06:47 AM
leaves the truth murdered. How can their customers... by Margaret Bassett on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 10:55:01 AM
Very good and timely analysis, need of the hour. I... by Shahidur Rashid Talukdar on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:52:53 PM
I just heard that the death toll has been amended ... by Taylor on Monday, Jul 25, 2011 at 8:00:39 PM
The lack of responsibility and accountability in t... by Jack Shneidman on Tuesday, Jul 26, 2011 at 2:00:59 AM
You know, all of us must keep pointing out the lie... by Adnan Al-Daini on Tuesday, Jul 26, 2011 at 2:33:41 AM