The mass media, national news agencies included, should play a vital role in blocking the spread of terrorism ideology and not unconsciously help market it, the 42nd OANA meeting in Beirut was told Thursday.
Member countries of the Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA), in their reports at the meeting, agreed that terrorists gain undeserving free publicity by manipulating the media to further their objectives to instil fear and create distrust and chaos among the public.
Sharing Malaysia's experience, Bernama Editor-in-Chief Datuk Zakaria Abdul Wahab said the Malaysian National News Agency had never let news relating to terrorism and its impact be published beyond the facts of the case given by the authorities.
"We have never carried any news that is deemed to benefit terrorism, and even the slightest unintentional hint towards glorifying terrorism is, strictly, no, no," he said in his paper on "The Role of the Media in not Marketing Terrorism".
Zakaria said Bernama, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary later this month, had been playing that role long before terrorism made the front pages worldwide.
He said as Malaysia was a multi-racial and multi-religious country, Bernama and the mainstream mass media recognised the importance of promoting tolerance and harmony among all Malaysians.
"Malaysia is lucky as we were born in 1957 as a multi-racial country and tolerance among all races has been observed and appreciated from the very start," he said, stressing on early preventive measures in combating terrorism and extremism.
He said Bernama had played its role in promoting tolerance and harmony from the very start of its formation in 1967, apart from promoting developmental journalism to ensure that the people understood that every government effort was for the benefit of all.
That had given rise to trust and contentment among the people of all races, he said, adding that with strong backing and support from the people who stood solidly as 1Malaysia, any effort by whatever extremist groups would fail to take root.
"Due to these facts, no terrorist and extremist groups survive in Malaysia, and isolated cases that occurred were well-handled by the authorities," he said, stating that so far only one bombing incident happened in Kuala Lumpur that Daesh claimed was carried out by its sympathisers.
Meanwhile, Lebanon National News Agency (NNA) Director Laure Sleiman Saab, in her country report, warned that the media could be a double-edged sword as it could also give terrorists the media aura that they did not deserve.
"This is especially so given the many media outlets competing for direct transmission of terrorism-related events to score a scoop and increase the number of readers and viewers, all at the expense of moral values and humanity, she said.
The host of the OANA 42nd meeting called on all news agencies to, among others, refrain from publishing materials that incited violence and hatred and help stop terrorists from gaining control of public opinion.
Bahrain News Agency Director Muhannad Sulaiman said BNA did not quote terrorists or their supporters because "we cannot and will not allow ourselves to be their mouthpiece".
He said he always stressed to BNA editors and reporters that Daesh could not be referred to as Islamic State because it was neither Islamic nor a state and that a suicide bomber could not be reported as a martyr as killing people was unacceptable.
He said the problem that the media faced was that it could not pretend that nothing had happened when it was the people's right to know what had happened around them.
The meeting, attended by 20 countries from among the 44 members, was opened by Lebanon Information Minister Melhem Riachy on Wednesday.