Terrorism and the Media: A Handbook for Journalists


UNESCO has launched a handbook for journalists related to the coverage of terrorism, authored by Jean-Paul Marthoz. The publication is designed to help them carry out their work informing the public while avoiding the risk of actually helping terrorists achieve their aim of dividing societies and turning people against each other.

The publication aims to raise journalists’ awareness of the need to exercise caution and examine carefully who they quote, what messages they relay and how they contextualize the information they give, despite the pressures to win readers, viewers and listeners.

Available in English and French and over 110 pages, the report examines the challenges of balanced reporting on the inevitably volatile and emotionally charged subject of terrorism.

In the words of UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Frank La Rue, terrorists’ ultimate purpose is to “cleave society down the centre, turning people against each other, including by provoking repression, discrimination and discord. They aim to simultaneously prove themselves correct in their predictions of widespread persecution and to attract new followers to their violent cause. They seek to create a mood of defeatism in the face of attacks and polarised reactions.”

With numerous examples taken from recent events, the handbook also addresses issues pertaining to the way journalists report on the victims of terror, handle rumours, report on the authorities’ investigations, conduct interviews with terrorists and report on their trials.

A separate chapter is dedicated to issues pertaining to the safety of journalists, including kidnappings, and traumas that may be incurred by reporters.

The publication can be viewed online at the following links:

French: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002470/247075F.pdf

English: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002470/247074E.pdf

Arabic: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002470/247074a.pdf

Portuguese: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002654/265479POR.pdf

Bosnian: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002657/265733hbs.pdf


Media contact: Laetitia Kaci, UNESCO Media Section, l.kaci@unesco.org  +33(0)145681772


Video Content

Jean-Paul Marthoz, author of Terrorism and the Media, discusses some of the issues for journalists in covering terrorism.

Interview with publication author Jean-Paul Marthoz with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO: