Analysis Media

From suicide to mass murder – terrorist propaganda and the responsibility of the media

Alexander Ritzmann | tv diskurs (Germany) |


In this article, EFD Executive Director Alexander Ritzmann highlights that media outlets often involuntarily serve as extended propaganda channels of terrorist organisations. In the current issue of tv diskurs, the magazine of the organization for the self-regulation of television in German (FSF), Alexander argues that many media outlets don´t put terrorist propaganda and attacks in context and therefore spread fear and confusion. Research on the effects of unreflected media reporting on suicides and mass shootings indicates that especially minors and adults with specific mental illnesses can be inspired to imitate extreme behavior if the individuals are in a personal crisis at the time of the reporting. In extreme cases, this can motivate individuals who are considering suicide to committing mass murder because of the attention and “fame” affiliated with these crimes. Alexander calls for journalists and media companies to explain terrorist tactics and strategies better to their audiences to foster the resilience of individuals and societies.

The article is in German and can be read here.


About Alexander Ritzmann

Alexander Ritzmann is a Senior Policy Advisor at the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) in Brussels, Belgium, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security (BIGS) in Potsdam, Germany. He is also co-chair of the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Communication and Narratives (C&N) Working Group. From September 2012 - December 2015, Alexander worked as Senior Advisor MENA Region and Project Manager for GIZ, the German Development Cooperation, based in Cairo, Egypt. He has also lived and worked in Berlin, Brussels, Beirut, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Washington D.C. In 2007 he was a DAAD-Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, DC. From 2001 - 2006 Alexander was a member of the Berlin State Parliament, overseeing the state police and intelligence agency, focusing on homeland security and data protection issues. He received his Master’s degree in Political Science from the Free University Berlin in 2000.

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