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Modern media: the terrorist’s best friend

10 March 2005

MADRID- It is proving nearly impossible to stop terrorists using the internet and live television to spread their message, the Madrid anti-terrorism summit heard.

Democratic countries have little control over rapidly multiplying, new technology that knows no borders or censorship and will have to come up with imaginative answers, experts told the summit.

“Last year there was some 5,000 terrorism-related, hate-spreading websites on the Internet, it is an increase of 25 percent over the year before,” said US rabbi Abraham Cooper, who supervises a programme by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre tracking problematic websites.

“The web has now emerged as the key battlefield, it has completely changed the picture. All developments now have the potential for global impact,” he added.

Gilles Kepel, a Paris-based political scientist and expert on Islam, said the advent and the development of the Internet and its use by 24-hour Arab television stations has changed the face of the terrorist threat.

“Today the Internet is more useful for a player in the Muslim world to know his way around the Internet than to have studied the Koran for 50 years. It has become the tool of power… religious and political power are in the hands of those with websites.”

Delegates at the Madrid summit, which gathers some 200 experts and coincides with the first anniversary of the 11 March train bombings in the Spanish capital, referred again and again to the role of the media in modern terrorism.

“It is a complex phenomenon in which the media are playing a central role indeed,” the US-based sociologist Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Terror in the name of God said.

“The media is an active target of manipulation by terrorists. When they cover events without precaution, they are serving as a megaphone for exactly what the terrorists want to happen.”

Keppel claimed “without the Arab television channel Al-Jazeera, there would be no al-Qaeda.”

“This does not mean that it is Al-Jazeera’s fault, but that al-Qaeda operations are geared completely to spreading their message in this manner.”

Jerrold Post, a psychiatry professor at George Washington University who long served as an advisor to the CIA on profiling, said the hostage crisis at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich was “the first act that dramatically conveyed
the power of the information age.

“There, a handful of individuals were able to capture an audience of 2.5 billion people. Today, most large terrorist organisations have a vice-president of communications.

“In terrorist handbooks that have been seized, there are chapters on how to capture the maximum media attention-explaining what the news cycle is, saying if you want to get on to the evening news, get it out there at such or such a time.”

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news