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Media & Law Enforcement Relations During Hostage-Taking Terrorist Incidences: A Cooperative Decision

NCJ Number
Responder Magazine Volume: 6 Issue: 1 Dated: January 1999 Pages: 26-33
James J. Onder Ph.D.
Date Published
7 pages
Terrorism is a "creature" of the media, and the media must be aware of their operative role in the terror syndrome and must cooperate with law enforcement, especially during hostage-taking terrorist incidents.
Media access to hostage incidents sometimes involves a clash between police officials who want to maintain control over events and reporters who want to maximize coverage. The goal is to balance the right of access to newsworthy events, the right to gather news freely, the right to publish freely, and the right to disseminate information that becomes news. The appropriate time for communication between the media and law enforcement regarding terrorist strategies, tactics, and policymakers is before an incident. Procedures to guide planning before an incident are described that focus on the outset of an incident, hostage negotiations, communication with hostage-takers, and special communication restrictions. The author notes that, although no definitive rules can be prescribed to govern media performance during terrorist incidents, principles can be followed that create effective liaison between the media and police officers.