Max Hill QC attacks the UK media for their role in publicising terrorism.
The government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Max Hill QC (St Peter’s, 1983) has attacked the British media for the way it represent terrorists, accusing them of giving radical extremists the oxygen of publicity.
Speaking at an event held at the Liberal Club in London and co-convened by the Oxford Media Network and Global Strategy Forum, he spoke to the title “Dogma or Demons? – The portrayal of a modern terrorist.”
At the heart of his argument was a theological point, namely that Islamic terrorism does not have a religious justification. ‘What they claim to do in the name of religion is actually born from an absence of real understanding about the nature of the religion they claim to follow.’
When radicalised terrorists are then killed perpetrating a crime, such as the three young men recently on London Bridge, the media too readily rush to analyse the motivation for the crime, straying into ideological and religious speculation that can inadvertently generate martyrdom narratives of the sort the terrorists themselves crave.
While praising the media for their often dogged pursuit of stories. and adding that he did not advocate specific curtailing of press freedoms, he nonetheless cited Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights, that freedom of speech is nonetheless subject to ‘…such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society.’
He said, ‘When crime is reported, all of the concentration is on what the criminal has done, not their rationale behind the action. But when terrorist crime is reported, I suggest far too much time is spent on ‘reasons why’, which by and large the criminals haven’t hung around to explain themselves because they have rightly perished why committing that crime.’
Hill also noted the advent of ‘remote radicalisation’, meaning situations where an individual can be radicalised without being directly recruited, purely on the basis of media and internet imagery and incitement.