Wednesday, September 03, 2014

ISIL kill US journalist threaten death of Brit

Britain held an emergency COBRA meeting Wednesday after it emerged that a British citizen was amongst others held by the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The news that a British man was being held emerged in a new video that was posted on the Internet and discovered by SITE, which monitors the Jihadist threat. The video showed the execution and beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff, preceded by a statement from Sotloff criticizing American foreign policy. It seemed clear the Sotloff was acting under duress, forced to make propaganda statements for his captors before being murdered in the desert.

Censorship & redactions

The video does not show the actual killing, cutting to black as the knife is brought to Sotloff's throat, Though a subsequent shot appears showing his decapitated corpse. Its structure is similar to that of the Foley execution video which was released two weeks ago.

In both cases there has been censorship, redactions and self-censorship imposed by news organisations themselves, or requested by government departments.

No news organisation has shown the video in its entirety, which is perhaps understandable. However, many news organisations also resorted to only showing selected still shots. In addition, the British journalist shown at the end of the video, and threatened with execution, was not named by most British news organisations.

Some redactions and acts of censorship is understandable. There are questions of taste when it comes to broadcasting execution videos. However, the naming or not naming a British citizen is not such a clear cut decision. The man has been named by some US news organisations, however UK government officials put out a request that the media not name the individual concerned.

Reasons offered by official intimate that "coverage will increase the threat to their lives." Though such assertions have been questioned.

The lack of publicity is said to dissuade would-be hostage-takers from bothering to kidnap reporters or others. There is some logic to this. But a complete blackout is almost entirely impossible in the modern age where the spread of information through the Internet is less controllable [Daily Beast].

What's in a name

The very name of the terrorist organisation, labelled a major threat to the West, has also been the subject of debate. Initially news organizations called the group ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But later the last two letters were dropped with much of the media calling the terror group IS or Islamic State.

Meanwhile the British and US government have decided to stick with ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Government have explained their decision saying that calling the terror group IS gives them legitimacy. Nonetheless, Sky News and the BBC have yet to drop the IS tag in favour of ISIL or ISIS. CNN and other US news outlets continue to use the acronym ISIS.

Some Arab media outlets and politicians have meanwhile started using the term Da'ish. It appears to have originated from posts by Syrian opposition activists and social media users.

Da'ish is not an Arabic word and the use of acronyms is not common in Arabic. Furthermore, the jihadist group objects to the term and has advised against its usage [BBC].

Meanwhile, the use of the acronym ISIS has upset a number a number of people who share their name with the terror group. Isis Martinez, an alternative medicine provider based in Miami, started a petition asking the media to call the Islamic State by the acronym ISIL rather than ISIS. The former acronym, while used by President Obama and considered acceptable by scholars and journalists for its technical merits, is far less common than the more understandable and recognizable acronym ISIS [Vox].

Isis is also the name of an ancient Egyptian goddess worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was also the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, a far cry from the murderous group that is currently spreading terror in the Middle East.

Ongoing war

There are fears that the British man shown in the latest ISIL video may already be dead. Indeed, similarities in the Foley and Sotloff productions seem to point to the fact they may have been filmed at the same time.

Whether or not he is safe, there are believed to be many others held by ISIL whose lives hang in the balance. Unfortunately their chances are not good.

Rescue efforts have been launched and failed. New strategies will likely be planned. Speaking after Sotloff's murder, President Obama affirmed his objective to "degrade and destroy ISIL". However, both the US and Britain have yet to establish any clear strategy as to how they might tackle the ongoing jihadist threat.

Obama conceded that the mission to destroy ISIL was "not going to be a one week operation". That much is clear. It took more than a decade to significantly degrade al-Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks. Yet like the Hydra, its extremist ideology was not killed by striking off one head. Indeed ISIL has itself grown out of Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn - more commonly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq - formed by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in 1999, which took part in the Iraqi insurgency against American-led forces and their Iraqi allies following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The irony is that al-Qaeda themselves have cut all ties with ISIL, reportedly for its brutality and "notorious intractability".

Media censorship, blackouts and redactions will do little to curtain ISIL's brutality. The public may be shielded from the horror, and families of those kidnapped may be protected from unnecessary grief. Politicians talk of cutting off the oxygen of publicity concerning such terror groups. Yet ignoring the severity of the problem and watering down the horror may only serve to soften the response to the threat.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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