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Media in France pull photos of jihadists to stop 'glorification'

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Media in France pull photos of jihadists to stop 'glorification'
Many media in France will stop publishing photos of the likes of Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah (above).
15:52 CEST+02:00
Various media sites in France including Le Monde and BFM TV have decided to stop publishing images of terrorist killers to avoid giving them the notoriety and glorification they crave, which may also encourage others to commit copycat acts.

France's Le Monde daily said Wednesday it would no longer publish photographs of killers responsible for terror attacks to avoid giving them "posthumous glorification".

The country's biggest rolling news television channel, BFMTV, later confirmed that it was following suit, as did Catholic daily La Croix.

And the Europe 1 radio station said it was going further and not "naming terrorists".

"We realised after the Nice attack that we were very uncomfortable about a series of photos from the attacker's past," Le Monde's managing editor Jerome Fenoglio told AFP, referring to widely circulated images of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel flexing his muscles and salsa dancing.

"It is not about hiding the facts, or where these killers came from, which is why we do not agree with not naming them," he added.

"But their photos are not pertinent for describing their background," he said.

Following the Nice attack and the killing of the priest the idea that media should stop - whether by choice or by being forced by law - publishing photos of terrorists began to gather sway.

Not only does it give them the publicity and notoriety they were seeking by carrying out on attack but those in favour of the move argued the images could also encourage other individuals to seek out the same kind of media attention.

Psychoanalyst Fethi Benslam told France Culture radio: “The terrorists will gain glory in the eyes of their commanders, or their friends and it could encourage others to do resort to the same thing.

“It’s a perfectly orchestrated strategy of Daesh (Isis). They leave behind their identity cards, they want to be known immediately.”

French politicians from both left and right have also been in favour of the move to keep terrorists anonymous.

“Some terrorists are in a race to be famous by dying as a hero,” said Socialist MP Sébastian Petrasanta.

BFMTV, which came in for criticism for interviewing gunman Amedy Coulibaly during the January 2015 kosher supermarket siege in Paris in which four people died, said it had also stopped showing images of attackers.

"We made the decision last night to no longer show pictures of the terrorists until further notice," said editorial director Herve Beroud.

"We have been thinking about this for some time. Our decision was speeded up by Nice, by the repeated tragedies," he told AFP.

He said the station would continue to name "terrorists... The difficulty of this debate is that we have to guard against not informing people," he added.

The Local has also decided to stop publishing images of those behind the killings.

"It is clear that media reports of acts of terror form part of the terrorists' plan, and the media need to guard against becoming their tools," said The Local's managing editor James Savage.

"But we need to balance that with our duty to report available information objectively. We think therefore that the right balance is to refrain from publishing photos of terrorists, while still publishing names and relevant biographical information. This will be The Local's policy from now on."

La Croix's editor-in-chief Francois Ernenwein said that it would no longer publish the surnames of suspected attackers.

"We will not publish their photo and we will only publish their first name and the initial of their surname," he told AFP.

But although the stance is popular with the public, not everyone agrees it is the right move.

France 24 journalist Wassim Nasr, a specialist in jihadism and the Middle East told L'Express news site that if news sites do not publish photos and names of terrorists and details of their past, then "we leave the space free for others to fill".

"It will quickly be occupied by conspiracy theorists and Islamic State and their dangerous communication," he said.

Not long after news of the media's stance was made public the National Front's Marion Marechal-Le Pen suggested the real aim of the move was "to hide the link with immigration".

Nasr deniedthat jihadists gain any kind of glorification from the coverage given to them.

"Jihadists don't watch TF1 because they look at mainstream media," he said.

"And on the contrary they are not happy to see their lives dragged out, not those of their friends or family. There are sometimes revelations that they would like to hide. It bothers them."

 

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