Media and extremism: Delivering a clear message, rather than causing terror and panic
When it comes to the role of media in reporting the phenomenon of religious extremism, as if the assessment prevails within civil society, media is the one that has given a powerful alarm that something very precarious is taking place in Kosovo.
Arbana Xharra, an experienced journalist and editor-in-chief of daily newspaper “Zëri” says that she began dealing with religious extremism long before this issue became on of the main topics in the media.
While acknowledging the lack of respective surveys on this sensitive issue of religious extremism, she insists that this should be reported by those knowledgeable and mindful of the issue.
In other words, those who are familiar with this field, otherwise a different connotation may be delivered, and the public may be misinformed.
“Media is not the one to be blamed, but rather the government that has not provided the journalists with sufficient information”, says she regarding potential cases of misinformation or misinterpretation.
For Skënder Përteshi, researcher from Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS), media played a double, at times, even a negative role.
“Media has given more space to terrorists to promote hatred, to spread as much as possible their propaganda, and to recruit our citizens, than providing that other proper counter-message against violent extremism and radicalism,” he said.
Sociologist Sibel Halimi considers that there can be no precise assessment of the positioning of the media, due to different approaches within it in dealing with religious extremism.
Upholding the lack of sensitivity in reporting, she says that apart from a small number of media that dwelled more seriously and adequately in this issue, there were others that misinterpreted and misused it for the sake of their own calculations and sensationalism.
“A cooperation between the media and organizations that deal with religious extremism would be an extremely important combination toward joint coordination mainly in prevention, rather than producing sensationalism and causing fear and panic among citizens,” she concludes.
Serbeze Haxhiaj, a reporter of the public broadcaster Radio Kosova, who also has dealt with this issues, considers the role of media an important factor in the fight against extremism.
“Taking the overall picture of the reporting in the media, I can say that the threat from extremism was reported,” she says, not denying the fact that professional ethic had been abused at times during reporting. “There were also nuances of a sort of islamophobia, though to a smaller scale.”
Besa Ismaili, lecturer and vice-dean at the Department of Islamic Studies acknowledges the big role of the media, but adds that they could help in improving the image that has been created if they covered the activities of Islamic Community.
Media, according to her should look into matters much closely, be more professional, while “some media were irresponsible in what they did”.
“You can’t write a story from your office chair and not talking to the Muslim community; you cannot write on Islamic Community without talking to anyone from Islamic Community. Even worse when writing on girls with Hijab without sitting down with them and talking, not even knowing them. Whatever question they (media) have, we’re ready to answer, and they don’t need to assume or give this issue a global discourse”, says Ismaili.
One positive role that media played, according to Përteshi from KCSS, is reporting on the arrests, and further explaining the risks and threats from violent extremism and radicalism.
As well as debates organized with theologians who are versed with this issue.
Burim Ramadani from Security Policy Research Center (SPRC), who researched on extremism, says that media played an extremely positive and important role, though we can’t say that their completed their duty, because of the long-term challenge of this ideology.
“Through reporting we should help expose this propaganda made by ISIS and other organizations that have created a connection with the public, created quite an advanced propaganda”, he states.
But, sometimes an unexpected, maybe even opposite effect, could be achieved
“Media has served the message to our citizens, or better said, to those who have embraced that ideology and have joined the conflict. Videos that were published on daily basis on the bombing of Assad, had an impact among youngsters who concluded they should go and protect the Muslims ,” Përteshi from KCSS said.
This did not happen only with the Kosovo media, but could rather be regarded a global trend that spread even among top world media, according to him
Videos that were published in Albanian, and remained as top news in our media for a long time, had a strong impact on spreading the ISIS propaganda, says Përteshi.