If Publicity is the Oxygen of Terrorism – Why Do Terrorists Kill Journalists?

François Lopez


This Research Note examines why some terrorist organisations, which depend on the “oxygen of publicity” provided by the news media, would target journalists. Journalists have long been the targets of attacks by terrorist organisations and this Research Note analyses why this has been the case by focusing on two case studies of one ‘old’ and one ‘new’ terrorist organisation; ETA and IS respectively. The research is centred around three hypotheses: (i) terrorist groups target journalists for collaborating with ‘the enemy’; (ii) terrorist groups target journalists in response to ‘negative’ portrayal and reporting in the media; and,(iii) new terrorist organisations do not require the ‘oxygen of publicity’ provided by the news media since they can count on the Internet and social media to serve this purpose. The findings suggest that hypotheses (i) and (ii) can be confirmed while hypothesis (iii) can be partly confirmed. The findings also reveal that the distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ terrorism can be questioned when examining the rationales of both terrorist organisations for killing journalists.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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