Connection between Terrorism and the Media
The Boston Marathon bombing attack took place on April 15th, 2013 after two bombs went off close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon carried out on a yearly basis. The two homemade bombs caused the deaths of three people and caused injuries to over 260 people. At around 2:49 p.m while there were about 5,600 people still running in the competition, the two pressure-cooker bombs packed inside the backpacks with nails and bearings detonated within 12 seconds apart. The bombs exploded among crowds of people watching the marathon close to the end of the finish line located along Boylston Street. Out of the dead spectators there were 23 and 29-year-old woman including an 8-year-old boy. Sixteen people lost different parts of their bodies. The FBI begun conducting investigations and after going through various videos and pictures that were retrieved from security surveillance cameras within the area of the attack. There were two suspects whose surveillance camera images were released and circulated as the suspects. The two were identified as brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 19 years old and Tamerlan Tsarnaev aged 26 years old (Press, T. A. 2015).
During the manhunt, the two brothers shot and murdered a MIT campus police officer before carjacking an SUV vehicle within the area. A shooting encounter between the two brothers and the police ensued where two officers were seriously wounded while Tamerlane sustained several gunshot wounds. He was captured by the police but was run over by the younger brother Dzhokhar as he tried to escape from the sight. Tamerlane was taken to hospital where he was reported dead the next morning. The search for Dzhokhar continued and the people residing Watertown were told to stay indoors and all businesses and major roads remained closed as the search continued. After the stay order was lifted at 6 pm a resident who went to check his boat at his backyard spotted the injured Dzhokhar and informed the police (Sherman, C., & Wedge, D. 2015). Dzhokhar was arrested and during questioning, it was came out that the two brother’s motivation was as a result of extremist Islamist beliefs and though they were not linked in any way to terrorist groups as they were self-radicalized. They had learned how to build explosives over the internet through an online magazine of the al-Qaeda that has an affiliate in Yemen. The jury found Dzhokhar of all the 30 counts that included the using weapons of mass destruction leading to death. He was subsequently sentenced to death.
The media’s coverage of the events of the Boston marathon attack lead to some misinformation that had negative impacts on the investigation including the families of those people that were involved. For instance, Sunil Tripathi a student at Brown University was incorrectly identified as one of the two suspects on Reddit in a surveillance photograph that was circulating by the FBI. These incidences lead to numerous phone calls by the public as a result of false accusations. At one time CNN also announced that one of the suspects had been apprehended when indeed no such apprehension had occurred (Schoenfeld, G. 2010). This would have put the public’s perception of the police as people that were hiding some information from them. Media was also hindering the function of the investigators by airing their whereabouts therefore given the two suspects a head-start making it difficult for the police officers to arrest the suspects. The media could also heighten suspicion by placing blame on the Muslims an Arabs thereby making other people have a perception that these groups of people are terrorists or their sympathizers.
The media helped in the immediate emergency response at the at the place where the bombing took place by relaying out the information and events to the appropriate bodies such as ambulances, police, and the fire brigade as they were in a position to respond faster and attend to the people that had been wounded in order to prevent further injuries and damages to property as investigations and hunt for the suspects started. The media hindered the investigation of the terror attack through various false reports and giving unverified reports that could only serve to misinform the public. For instance, CNN had reported that an arrest had been made when indeed no such arrest had been made. The reports also had the tendency to put blame on Muslims and Arabs, therefore, causing unnecessary suspicion and accusation of that group of people with a potential of causing wrongful arrest. Live media coverage also had the potential of putting the investigative authorities under too much pressure of meeting unrealistic expectations of the public (Press, T. A. 2015).
The media hindered the manhunt for the suspects in a number of ways. The fact that the events were being relayed nonstop and giving live updates of the situation because reporting police movements enabled the suspect still at large to obtain information about the search making it more difficult for the investigative authorities to locate and make an arrest. In a bid to be the first ones to report the media also gave false reports of the seizure of a Saudi national and other explosives planted elsewhere within Boston thereby causing further confusion about the arrest of the culprit. The media plays an important role as a force multiplier for terrorists by contributing to the “fear factor that is experienced by the public during and after the terrorist event. The media can also create an impression that the terrorist group has more political substance. It can also help the terrorist to create their resume to the world and other terrorist groups. Media outlets such as social media and the internet can also help the terrorists to broadcast their propaganda in a bid to seek for sympathizers and advance their cause (Schoenfeld, G. 2010). It makes it easier for them to portray their messages with minimal chances of being arrested by the police. The media seems to have an interdependent relationship with terrorists because as they keep the public conversant about terrorism and terrorists which is one of their mandates, they are able to make money and increase newspaper sales and the number of television viewers that earns them revenue while advertising the messages of the terrorists and terror groups.
There is no doubt that the public has the right to know and the media plays a very important role in fulfilling this right. Equally, there are working security issues that can come into play. For instance, there are cases where the security organs need some time to conduct their job and it can be counterproductive when the media goes ahead to report about a matter that is still under investigation as it may end up interfering with the integrity of the investigation altogether. A good example is a case that involves hostages the media can create a situation that can affect the ability of the concerned authorities to secure the release of the hostages. The airing of certain information can also cause mass panic as a result of overreaction resulting to a slump in the economy of a country (In Eid, M. 2014). It is advisable that there ought to be a balance between the public’s right to receive information and the safety aspect of it so that the media should not report things that are likely to affect the investigative process. The media is supposed to collaborate with the law enforcement organizations before reporting certain issues.