The Self-Censorship Dilemma: Media Coverage of Terrorists in the Post-Factual Era

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This article studies the conditions for covering terrorists in the post-factual era. Specifically, the article focuses on what it means when the news media show images of terrorists or deprive them of media attention. Regardless of whether the news media apply self-censorship in coverage of terrorists, the implications of their decision can be linked to the post-factual: on the one hand, self-censorship might feed into narratives of the post-factual as information is withheld and reality possibly distorted. On the other hand, if the news media opt against self-censorship, coverage of terrorists often includes “post-factual” elements such as the dramatic and sensational aspects of the visual culture surrounding terror. Accordingly, the objective of this article is to explore dilemmas attached to media coverage and media self-censorship of terrorists. A theoretical framework is developed for understanding challenging aspects of news coverage of the “selfie-generation” of terrorists and media self-censorship. Empirically, the article takes its departure point in news coverage on Danish public service broadcasters DR and TV2 in 2016. The analysis focuses on the paradox that despite conflicting public statements for (DR) and against (TV2) self-censorship, a quantitative content analysis demonstrates similar coverage of terrorists by these two media organizations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number13
Pages (from-to)1957-1968
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 190860759