Mightier than the Sword?: The Role of the Media in Addressing Violence and Terrorism in South Asia

Author : Naureen Chowdhury Fink, Karin Deutsch Karlekar, and Rafia Bhulai
Date : October 2013

The media plays an important role in terrorism and counterterrorism. Because of its capacity to relay information, frame narratives, shape public opinion, and inform both politics and policymaking, the media is a critical vehicle to convey ideas that legitimize or delegitimize terrorists and violent extremist groups and narratives. Violent extremist groups have used the media, particularly the Internet, to link local grievances to global narratives, and to radicalize and mobilize supporters. South Asia has a long history of confronting violence and extremism, particularly from groups espousing a wide variety of ideologies, including ethno-national, separatist, right and left wing, and religious (or sectarian) causes. Within this environment, South Asia’s vibrant and diverse media has often been at the forefront of a rich cultural and political discourse and plays an important role in framing and informing public opinion, and in challenging extremist ideas and acts. However, there have also been concerns about the use of the media to incite violence and perpetuate tensions between different communities.

This report analyzes the media’s important role in contemporary terrorism and argues for greater focus on the role of the media in countering violent extremism (CVE), both as a platform for communication and as a professional body that can shape perceptions, offer balanced information, and create protected spaces for critical debate and dialogue. The publication draws on a desktop literature review, discussions held during a workshop on “The Role of the Media in Addressing Terrorism and Violent Extremism in South Asia” at the Institute of South Asian Studies in Singapore, and extensive dialogue with practitioners, experts, and government officials. This report offers a set of recommendations for actors at the national, regional, and international levels to consider when engaging with the media for CVE purposes in South Asia.

Download Publication