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.

Image of Max Hill QCSpeaking 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.


By Alexander Ross

Apt comment that is well overdue.

Alexander Ross MA (Oxon) Blackfriars

By Anselm Kuhn

I think most would agree that the "oxygen" afforded by UK media pales into insignificance when compared with what is available on the social media platforms, YouTube, Facebook etc. There one can find extremist preachers sermonising, how to make a bomb and glowing (and false) accounts of life under ISIS and much, much more.

By Robin

This summary suggests to me strongly that Mr Hill would like Article 10 to be used to prohibit comments such as "can we now please drop the 'Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance' lie?"

I hope I am wrong. But that would be of a piece with eg the way the BBC and others keep quiet about Islam's tolerance of apostasy (ie tendency to teach it is a capital offence); and the fundamental conflict between Islam (and the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam) and the UN Declaration's guarantee freedom of religion - in particular the right of each and every individual to change their religion.

How long then before I cannot even say that I think all religions are sad delusions we should leave behind as no longer necessary for society - but that Islam is sadder - and madder - than most?

By Andrew Gauntlett

Questioning their motives - an essential element of any crime - strays into dangerous territory here. "Might it indeed be some kind of, perhaps misguided, reaction to our own behaviour?", is the kind of question that will all to willingly be censored beyond the reaches of ill-informed public debate.

They hate us for our freedoms thus remains the enduring narrative of our oh-so shallow times.

Blame the Internet for it.

By Akhtar Hamid (S...

I think Mr. Hill makes a very good point, but the need to talk about and address the causes of radicalization cannot be ignored as a first step towards the pre-emption and prevention of acts of terrorism. A delicate balancing approach is called for here.