Major French media outlets – including Le Monde – have decided to stop publishing photographs and names of terrorists in a move that could become enshrined in French law.
Several major media outlets in France have decided to stop publishing the pictures of Islamic terrorists, some even censoring their names altogether.
The editorial boards of the television news network BFMTV, and newspapers Le Monde and Le Parisien have decided that they will no longer publish the photographs of Islamic terrorists. They all uniformly state that the reason is to “avoid glorification” of the jihadists after their deaths.
In an editorial on Wednesday, director of Le Monde, Jerome Fenoglio, announced that the newspaper will not publish pictures of jihadists who have slain French men and women. He stated: “Following the Nice attack, we will no longer publish the photographs of perpetrators [of terrorism] in order to avoid possible posthumous glorification.”
BFM-TV also made the move today by not airing photographs of Adel Kermiche, the jihadist who beheaded a priest in Normandy.
Another newspaper, Le Croix, has taken it a step further by not only censoring images of terrorists but by identifying them by first name and initial, only. However, broadcaster Europe 1 has come out and said that it would neither reveal the picture nor name of future perpetrators of terror – redacting entirely jihadists’ identities.
The broadcaster tweeted that it would not “make heroes” of the terrorists.
@Europe1 ne citera plus les noms des terroristes à l'antenne pour ne pas en faire des héros, décision de la direction de la radio.
— SDR_Europe1 (@SDR_Europe1) July 27, 2016
The above-mentioned have not stated whether this censorship of details will be rolled out to include all perpetrators of violent crime – such as serial killers or mass murders – or whether this practice will be isolated to those acts attributed to Islamic terrorism alone.
Rising star of the populist right Marion Le Pen of the Front National reacted angrily to the media outlets’ decision, questioning whether the self-censorship of the names and photographs of Islamist terrorists served the purpose to hide terrorism’s link to immigration, a relationship that other European politicians like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak is not afraid to make.
Les médias annoncent l'auto-censure des noms et photos des terroristes islamistes : pour mieux cacher le lien avec l'immigration ?
— Marion Maréchal (@MarionMarechal) July 27, 2016
However, not all major media outlets made pronounced declarations of self-censorship.
francetélévisions has decided to continue to identify the terrorists. In a statement by the director, Michel Field asserted:
“We have not waited for the recent events to adopt an ethical and responsible course of action in the treatment of terrorist horror. And we do not need statements or postures…to do our work.” Evoking the “perverse effect” of terrorist anonymisation:
“Anonymous attacks, nameless and faceless perpetrators? Nothing better to provoke conspiracy theories, and promote a social anxiety from a population who already suspect that the media not always tells, or will want to silence, the truth. ”
However, whereas at this point media outlets are voluntarily self-censoring, controlled media may soon be enshrined into French law.
Juliette Méadel, member of the Socialist party and the Secretary of State for victim support, announced that she has launched a working group that will propose the next steps on “rethink[ing] the ethics of the media” in their coverage of domestic terror attacks committed in the name of Islam.
Ms. Méadel in an interview with Metro News said: “The principle of freedom of information is essential. We must be informed of what is happening” but at the same time believes “we must think of ways to provide information without necessarily delivering all the details of the identity or the biography of the terrorist”.
This is what the Secretary of State terms “responsible journalism”.
Working with the Secretary of State for digital media, and the Ministry of Culture and Communication, Ms. Méadel’s goal is to make proposals by September of this year, her aim to “convince and ensure that all the media and ‘Gafa’ [Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon] agree on ethics”.
This is not the first time that a European government official has colluded with media corporations such as Facebook in the policing of information. Breitbart London reported that in May of this year Facebook had signed a European Union pledge to suppress ‘hate speech’ and promote ‘counter narratives’. This came after the German government’s demand that social media giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter remove what it called anti-migrant ‘hate speech’ from their platforms.
However, Cedric Rouquette, the director of studies at the Journalists Training Centre (CFJ) in France, questioned the feasibility of such legislation: “Even if there are financial penalties for non-compliance with the proposed ban, the media will always prefer to pay and publish what is real information for the purpose of understanding – and certainly not to glorify.”
The French media withholding the identities of terrorists from the public is reminiscent of Swedish police sending out a memo to all its officers ordering them not to release descriptions of crime suspects which include race or nationality to avoid accusations of racism.