Defend the position that advocates unrestricted access for the media to a terrorism scene and removal of all censorship from the coverage of the incident.
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No, I do not think these matters should be censored. The American way of life is against censorship regardless of the topic or situation. Freedom of the press is fundamental to our Constitution.
Who should censor them, and according to what criteria? Journalists need to have an ethical code and adhere to it, not to mention one of common decency. The attacks themselves do not need to be televised in every detail, nor for mere shock value or ratings. We need the information, yes, but not the gore or the up close tragedy. But regulating that from a government standpoint is virtually impossible without compromising freedom of the press.
This position is a little problematic to defend as the element of surprise is needed in some criminal investigations. While terrorism is a crime of the most extreme proportions, it is still a crime that still requires investigation that still requires that all in formation be disclosed. On the one hand, the public's right to and need for unfettered access to information must be balanced in reasonable minds against the need to succeed in these most critical investigations.
Often access to the victims of a terrorist attack is restricted out of respect. Access to the scene is often unrestricted as long as safety isn't a concern. I think this is more common in democratic societies because the media in general is less restricted. The idea is to let the people know what is really going on in the world. This follows the belief that the people are the real ones running the country and they should know what is going on in order to make informed decisions. Americans in particular do not like to feel that information is being withheld.
I do think that keeping access to information necessary to fighting terrorist group, such as how much we know in an ongoing investigation, would be crucial to national security. However, I do not think that censoring terrorist information will prevent new recruits from joining. On the contrary, people might think the group is more successful than it is and be more likely to join. The group can claim anything if no one really has all the information.
In my mind there is no question here; public media access should be allowed for all non-security-dependent scenes and attacks. We must be informed to act and react intelligently. I fully understand the need for some silencing and censorship where media scrutiny would threaten national security, but in general, the media should be allowed to report on everything and anything. If we have wide-spectrum censorship of terrorism and attacks, we lose our sense of reality in favor of rose-colored glasses; this is one element of the 9/11 attacks, since we had never been directly attacked and had no concept of how it could work. Most media coverage of terrorism took pains to show how far away it was and how "it could never happen here." With fuller coverage and better understanding of the real worldwide risks, we could at least have had better public knowledge.
In short, no censorship.
Police routinely withhold certain details involved in crimes in order to determine who may or may not be involved in those crimes. It should be the same with terrorist attacks. If withholding something helps solve the crime, then it should be done. However, that does not mean that other details should be censored.The public has a right to know most of what happens in these cases.
Some reasonable restrictions on coverage of a terrorist attack would be those that might compromise military operations or perhaps even those of law enforcement, and of course releasing names and photos of the victims before their relatives are notified. One also might argue that the public has no vested interest in seeing photographs of the victims' remains, which seems reasonable to me as well.
Censoring coverage of a terrorist incident is incompatible with democratic government. The people of a democracy need to know what is going on in their society. The government ought to censor details about what US forces are doing or what capabilities they have because those would tell the enemy things they should not know. But the details of an actual attack should not be concealed.
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