Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Al-Qaeda & Papal visit to Turkey

"Earlier, the Pope's efforts to emphasize common ground between Christians and Moslems were sharply rebuffed by Al Quaeda, which accused him of aiding what it called a crusade against Islam."

This is an extract from the RTE website and consistent with the tone and content of the station’s many news bulletins on both radio and tv today.

RTE have today given far greater prominence to Al-Qaeda's hostile comments on the Pope's visit to Turkey than any other aspect of that visit. Why report/publicise their comments at all?

Al-Qaeda are clearly anti-western, anti-christian and unlikely to welcome any visit by a non-muslim religious leader. Has Al-Qaeda become an accepted representative group for any branch of Islam, other than the terrorist one, whose comments are now deemed to carry weight on religious matters by RTE?

RTE chose a tabloid approach, using Al-Qaeda to spice up its reports on the papal visit. In doing so, it accords a weight and legitimacy to that terrorist organisation which it does not deserve. This runs the risk of further influencing young Muslims in Ireland to regard Al-Qaeda and other radical groups as credible spokesmen for some mainstream strand of Islam.

RTE will claim that they are only reporting the news and adopt a “don’t shoot the messenger” stance. But surely even Montrose is aware that the media is an integral part of the terrorist strategy - to spread the word to fellow-travellers across the world, to spread fear among their enemies and mobilise public opinion motivated by that fear. This has long been a recognised fact - the terrorists feed media with spectacular content and the media duly feeds it to a much wider audience than they terrorists themselves could ever reach.

Standard media defence is that it’s on the internet anyway and therefore accessible to all. That’s fine in theory, but putting it on all major news bulletins ensures that it reaches a far wider audience that the small number of adherents who would actually know where to find it on the internet and then take the trouble to access and read it.

This nonsense has been an excellent example of completely unbalanced reportage and should not be repeated. Needless to say, I’ve emailed a strongly-worded complaint to the RTE newsroom - which generated the response below. I'm not holding my breath that it will have any impact.

Thank you for your e-mail. Your comments in regard to RTÉ's reporting on Pope Benedict's visit to Turkey have been logged and circulated for information and discussion to senior RTÉ Management and members of the Editorial Boards.
I am also forwarding your e-mail to the Senior Press Officer for News and Current Affairs who will bring your comments to the attention of the RTÉ News Editors.
Your feedback is appreciated and thank you again for taking the time and trouble to contact us on this matter.

With best regards
Nina Ward
RTÉ Information Officer

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