People’s perception of a terror threat is to a large extent influenced by the media approach. Media coverage that focus on threats, list of terrorist targets and possible scenarios can enhance peoples fear and anxiousness. Moderate and accurate information prevents the fear from growing stronger.
Blood dripping TV-reports, brings the terror acts into our living room, and makes us unnecessary scared. The role of mass media is central. By being viewers, listeners and readers we all become indirectly exposed to the terror acts.
Lars Weisæth, researcher in terrorism
Terrorists often depend on the media coverage to achieve their goals, convey their message and to induce fear. Thus, journalists are faced with a difficult task of balancing information in the aftermath of a terror attack. On the one hand, they have a societal responsibility and a duty to provide people with information, on the other hand they risk becoming the terrorists’ messengers.
Victims of political violence often have their experiences shared in the public, while victims of other types of criminal violence are entitled privacy. Why? Because the victims of terrorism died instead of us. We, as a society therefore has both an obligation and right to try to put ourselves into their shoes.
Since the mass media tend to focus on major accidents, disasters and acts of terrorism, we may overestimate our own risk of being affected – while we tend to underestimate the risk for everyday accidents and emergency situations that we are far more likely to experience.