Media in France pull photos of jihadists to stop ‘glorification’

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.

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).

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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US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.