Friday, February 23, 2007
The writer's block: Should news groups air Taliban threats?

A British soldier stands guard at a ceremony in Kabul.

We heard from the Taliban today, vowing to launch a massive offensive against U.S. forces and other foreign troops in Afghanistan beginning this spring. According to Reuters, one Taliban commander said this year will be the bloodiest yet.

That's disturbing, but really nothing new from the Taliban and other extremists. Their threats stream across the Internet and into our newsroom on a regular basis.

Tonight, we're going to take a closer look at the Taliban warning and what it may mean for the thousands of American troops in Afghanistan. We're also going to have new video of what is purported to be an al Qaeda attack filmed by the militants themselves.

As we discussed how to tell these stories, the following questions were raised: Are we giving the Taliban and other radical groups a venue to air their propaganda? Or are these newsworthy topics involving the war on terror -- and American lives -- that must be told?

Posted By Gabe Falcon, CNN Writer: 2:32 PM ET
  46 Comments
Better to have topics such as this, dealing with our American sons and daughters lives, than continuing coverage on Anna Nichole Smith's tragedy. I do not know one person who I work with or otherwise that has anything to say about that coverage other than that it should stop and is ridiculous.
Posted By Anonymous Jason Gary Houston Tx : 2:59 PM ET
Hi Gabe, Of course, this is a story that needs to be told. Americans are ready for and need the truth to make good decisions. Where would we be if the media did not blow the whistle on "no weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. We would still believe that the Iraq war is a war on 9/11 terrorists. Tell the story from all angles. Also, you notice that we are stepping up our defense of Afghanistan and CNN and Anderson Cooper reported last September that the violence was increasing. Trust me, this government does nothing meaningful until the media blows the whistle on their incompetence.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn, Michigan : 3:05 PM ET
These stories are news and should be aired, US reporters should report on all news even if the whitehouse does not like it. I think most americans have become wary of news reports especially anything that comes from the US government as they deny everything and then as the truth reveals itself they backpedal and eventually because of reporters digging further the real story comes out
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Longmont CO : 3:11 PM ET
I am so very tired of the American media putting these "Threats" in our face. The only reason they have any hold or are placing any fear in our lives. Is because the media instills it in us. Terror is not a NEW thing in this world. It has been around for centuries. But with the "instant" coverage media can apply now. You are the cause of most of the stress Americans suffer. If the Taliban are planning a strike, that is old news! They have been planning for so long, and our Brave men and women are prepared for more than they could ever give us.
Anderson Cooper, how about some inspiring stories? Why dont more of you media people put something on the screen that would inspire people to get of the couch and begin teaching our children what is truely important. Rather than grinding in fear and axiety day after day after day?
Many people want to point fingers at the media, or the government, or the terrorist's, when you really should be looking in the mirror. Don't dominate our lives with these pathetic questions. Lets work together to drive out the low moral standards that is driving American media and begin discussing how to retrain our thoughts to become a "Motivated" society. That strives for a better tommorow. Not dwell on empty threats of some radicals.
Posted By Anonymous Dale H, Winston-Salem, NC : 3:16 PM ET
Many times, CNN gives the Taliban plenty of venue to air their propaganda. You aired their video of how to blow up Americans numerous times. So many, that I personally saw the video on 360 at least 3 or 4 times. If I hated Americans (which I clearly don't) it would have fed my hatred.

A video like that one is not newsworthy. It is more important for the special agents to view...not for the regular person watching the news. Of course we all should be aware of potential terror, but you should not be helping the terrorists but airing these types of videos anymore.
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 3:25 PM ET
Gabe,
I have no doubt that the Taliban will keep their word and make this the bloodiest year yet. It give me a sick feeling knowing so many KIDS serving in this war that are not even old enough to buy a beer! Isn't it obvious to our president that we have NOT made any progress in this war on terror and the situation has deteriorated to the level of chaos and tragedy? It's not rocket science or brain surgery. This war has become the gift from HELL that keeps on giving. This is not the war on terror, it is the war OF terror and that my friend is really, REALLY, scary.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 3:31 PM ET
I know it's giving the terrorists a forum for their propaganda, but we do need to stay informed as to what is going on. I think the media is doing a good job on this reporting.

Their threats do impact our lives in one way or another and I'd rather know about them then not know. I also want to know what our government is saying about it, although I do listen to them with doubt in one ear. They also like to feed us propaganda. We need all the information we can get so we can sift out the weeds to find the truth.

Six days of covering where to bury Anna Nicole was stupid. There were too many other news worthy stories that were put on the back burner because of it. It's the media that's obsessed with Anna Nicole, Britney, etc. You usually lose me with the gossip, tabloids type of coverage.
Posted By Anonymous Lee Fairfield Iowa : 3:38 PM ET
Airing the threats made by the Taliban and other extremist groups absolutely provides such groups with a venue for their propaganda. This much is obvious. But a more important question remains; Does the media have an obligation to provide the American people and the rest of the world with an accurate picture of what we are facing in Afghanistan. As we prepare for a new election, the media will be instrumental in swaying voters. These same voters will ultimately be deciding our foreign policy. A foreign policy/war strategy that will affect the lives of our men and women who serve our nation and affect the lives of our children who will one day govern it.
Posted By Anonymous Ezra Graziano, Seattle, WA : 3:42 PM ET
Oh to be a fly on the wall for that discussion. . . .

I imagine it�s a tightrope you find yourselves walking often. Part of the way we honor soldiers is keeping the public informed about the reality of their situation. It�s only fitting considering we asked them to go. Full disclosure is neither possible nor wise so how do you decide how much information is enough?

The public needs to know enough to keep their leaders responsible. Citizens should be informed enough to be able to decide whether proposed plan is basically a good idea or bad one. (Will 20 000 troops help those already on the ground or simply quiet the voices of dissent on the hill?)

As for the question of whether or not this helps the enemy � the only way to be certain that we�re not promoting their propaganda would be to never mention them at all. Surely the risk of promotion is outweighed by the need to live in reality. These aren�t bullies on the playground. �Ignore them and they�ll go away� isn�t going to work.
Posted By Anonymous Claire Colvin, White Rock, BC : 3:46 PM ET
Hi Gabe-

I think the bigger need is for the American public to be informed as much and as often as possible. Real faces, real names, real life stories- such as the piece that Tom Foreman did on those four young soldiers. It does air Al Queda,the Taliban or Hamas or any one of the thousand other factions' rhetoric- but knowledge is power - both positive and negative. The more informed people are- if they don't believe or like the information- they will investigate and educate themselves. That is what needs to be done. We as a nation seem to have gone back in our safe little cubby and we need to come out and pay attention to what's happening all over the world. If American news entities did not air it- there is no doubt in my mind that these groups would find another way to espouse their bravado to the free world. I think continuing to air such information will become ever more crucial as it appears that soon the only Western forces in that region will be those of the US.

Thank you- Sherri McKee
Posted By Anonymous Sherri McKee, Oroville,Ca. : 3:48 PM ET
I am torn on this subject. I am usually disturbed when I see new threat tapes from terrorists. On the other hand, I think it's important for us to be aware that they are still after us. It is a no win situation I'm afraid. Although it scares us, I think it is a very worthy news story.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 3:49 PM ET
The media should not air anything regarding any terrorists. It just gives them an avenue to spew their hatred, and furthers their cause.
Posted By Anonymous James TerHark, Rockfor, Il : 3:51 PM ET
When you put videos on TV, you're giving them what they want: attention to their causes.
Posted By Anonymous Jean, San Diego, CA : 3:58 PM ET
I'm sure that Rove would prefer that we just put on the air the 'WH' side of the story as spun through Snow and other 'news' makers. In fact, given the CNN International advantage I think that more coverage of the 'other' side is in order. An informed public protects democracy.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 4:06 PM ET
The whole idea of terrorism is to create fear in people and disrupt their lives. By constantly giving these monsters a forum for their threats the news media are accomplices in terrorizing the population. The same thing is true of publishing the plans for bombs and other weapons of destruction. Why not just send training manuals to people to give them ideas?! Apparently people have forgotten the story of the little boy who cried wolf. No one will hear you when you announce a real threat because they have been desensitized
by all the pervious threats.
Posted By Anonymous Linda Himes Springfield, OH : 4:07 PM ET
This is certainly something worth looking into. I think that in order for a story to be told as truthfully as possible it must contain all the facts that do make up that story. But what generally happens is that sometimes there is too much emphasis on these terror groups and on what they do and say, that maybe the media tends to just give them the upper hand, making them feel that they are invincible. The repeated news coverage of such stories i am sure gives these sick guys a 'high'. The pressure to make stories that sell to the max crowd makes the media overplay the stuff that these guys do, creating fear in those who watch. Sometimes such strong feelings only can cause distrust and hatred for other communities and cultures. Yes, everyone has a right to know if they are under any threat, but the media also must practice discretion on how they report on these terrorists.
Posted By Anonymous rekha, india : 4:07 PM ET
You know, when you give terrorists press coverage, you're only doing them a favour. If no one knew what the terrorists did, they wouldn't be able to recruit more. By airing what they see as their "accomplishments" you're only giving them the "praise" they want, and the audience they need to bolster their ranks. Media coverage is power, and it seems the US media is very happy giving these extremists all the power they want.
Posted By Anonymous Blake, Boston, Ma : 4:08 PM ET
Each time the Taliban, Al Queda or OBL make a threat, video or statement, I am always curious as to why we essentially broadcast their message across the broad spectrum of news outlets like carrier pigeons, if we did not, they would not have such a forum to spew their twisted ideology, I say stop relaying their message(s)...
Posted By Anonymous Tony D Boston MA : 4:13 PM ET
Gabe,

Absolutely these stories need to be aired. We need to know our enemies and in the case of the Taliban it is important to know how America and Americans are being portrayed to the Arab world. However, there is a fine line between scaring the bejeezes out of everyone and presenting a balanced story that is thoroughly investigated. I would expect that reports of threats would be counterbalanced with investigative reporting that tries to confirm or deny the threat. CNN does a good job of that. Something is supposed to be happening in Baghdad, you contact Michael Ware and he checks things out and reports back. Same thing with the Obama story and the "radical" school he was supposed to have attended as a boy. However, maybe if there had been more analysis and hard reporting of fact vs fiction at the beginning of the war in Iraq we wouldn't be in this mess. There were too few voices in the wilderness to challenge Bush and Cheney. So yes, cover these stories but be sure and check things out and label the info when it is propaganda. And I agree with other viewers 100% re the tabloid type junk that is creeping into the news coverage. I don't want to hear anymore about Brittany or Paris or Lindsay except in my People magazine. That is where I get my gossip. Also, 360 does not need to repeat everything we have already seen a hundred times elsewhere re the Anna Nicole Smith circus. Unless Anderson has an exclusive on who the father is. Last night he gave us the hint that is not Mr. Gabor. Is he holding out on us???? Ciao!
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 4:23 PM ET
Yes, the news media should report the threats. Yes, the news media should put them in proper perspective. The apparently impossible requirement for the news media is to control themselves and stop there -- trumpeting threats that are hardly new is as bad as pushing any of its obsessions on us. News trying to be entertain fails both.
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Fairfax, VA : 4:25 PM ET
I strongly believe that if the media was not present in Iraq today, or for the matter in the whole of the Middle East, the terriosts/insurgents would have sunk back into their holes a long time ago because their message of hate and violence would be lost to the world.

Everyday we only see the media hype of how many US soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded. For the life of me I don't see how this kind of news serves any purpose other then to provide a daily forum for the terrorists to get their message out. The media does a GREAT job for them in this regard.

WE (the people) are growing tired of the constant bad news about our effort in Iraq... this is a WAR and lives will be LOST. WE know this but we don't need to be bombarded with it every minute of every day. I think now that if the media were as visible back in WWII as they are today we would have lost that war too because of ALL the negative coverage we see today.

To me the media feeds on the worst news they can find because it sells and makes money for them. That's the way it is with you people... you will take any opportunity to portray the effort of our soldiers anywhere in the world as a lost cause they can't win. The media has never shown the positive successes our troops have achieved in Iraq today without adding a long list of the negatives that happened during the day as well. Why is that.. why must every story end with a negative... sounds to me like the media has an agenda of their own.

Dan D.
New Jersey
Posted By Anonymous Dan D., Hackensack, NJ : 4:27 PM ET
Gabe/AC360:
In many ways this topic is about Freedom of the Press and the issue of propaganda.

I believe most Americans know that there are machines in progress from both the militants and our government to sway ideas and action toward the Iraq War.

As a journalist, it is about accuracy, accountability, education and information for the viewers/readers. The issue of objectivity is still up in the air. Categorized as either on the "right" or the "left", journalists and their coverage are accused of bias based on the eye of the beholder.

Has the coverage of newsworthy topics led to the questioning of the Iraq War? You bet ya! The same went for the Vietnam War. Has the Internet and exclusive video (i.e. CNN) changed the minds of Americans about how the enemy is reacting to the US invasion. No.

After 911, the coverage or venues from the militants are not going to change American minds. But the question is...will it aid in changing impressionable minds in the Middle East region? Maybe. But I don't think CNN International's coverage is going to change someone's mind to join up the Taliban or al Qaeda. They already have sophisticated recruiting tactics.

So what is the issue? The historical value of the coverage will be essential as well as the dissection of today's battle or strategy. It will be fifty years from now whether airing of terrorist footage was detrimental or beneficial.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 4:38 PM ET
If we filter news to cherry pick news then it is merely propoganda. The beuty of america is the freedom to have access to news whether good or bad.Our own bias should not dictate what news agencies should report to the public.In other words who are we to decide what is newsworthy.
Posted By Anonymous EDDY, ATLANTA, GA. : 4:42 PM ET
It's the double-edged sword. On the one side, telling of the terrorist threats gives them the attention they seek and makes it seem we are fearful (which is the point of terrorism--to invoke terror). The other side is that we as a people need to know that we do have enemies and are not completely safe. I would rather know the threats out there than sit in oblivion to reality. Media has a responsibility to report events so that people know what is really happening, not giving a sugar-coated version of events. Some of us appreciate the truth, not the spin job some of your competition is all too eager to produce.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 4:47 PM ET
Just because the Americans and British are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn't mean that we should show what we like and not the truth. If the so called propaganda by the Taliban and others frightens the Americans and British so much, we have to ask 'What kind of soldiers are they?'Pulling out of Iraq in Basra is a tactical move ordered by the Americans as they intend to strike Iran by airstrikes, as they cannot afford to send troops there, which is most likely to happen this year judging by Americas recent behaviour. Quite frankly, Bush got it all wrong by setting up 9/11 and thinking they would dominate the whole world with their interests. Stupid as it sounds, if you really think about it, it's the truth. Back to the question then, we should stop such propaganda as it frightens our soldiers! lol
Posted By Anonymous Usman, Bradford, United kingdom : 4:47 PM ET
We must win the war on terror if we are to survive. If airing detailed terrorist propoganda gives aid or comfort to the enemy or demoralizes us from achieving our objectives then it should not be aired. Terrorist use the news to motivate their followers; we should do the same. We should not create or perpetuate a defeatist attitude merely for political gain.
Posted By Anonymous John Rice, Idaho Falls, ID : 4:55 PM ET
Oh, I wonder... if the 'media' did NOT talk about any of the terrorists threats and bombings, killings, etc. for one week. What would you have to talk about? Maybe, just maybe you could finally report about the many wonderful and extraordinary things the United States is and has been doing to aid the rest of the world for a long time. Just the knowledge that girls in Afghanistan are going to school, when they have never been allowed to before is an amazing accomplishment and benefit to them. Talk about those things (positives) for awhile would you?
Posted By Anonymous Jon Allen, Tacoma, WA. : 5:04 PM ET
Ah yes... the nuanced and high-minded mainstream media airing terrorist videos for the purpose of quote-unquote news and being objective. CNN: The most trusted name in carrying the terrorists' water.
Posted By Anonymous Eric, San Antonio, TX : 5:08 PM ET
Gabe,
I think that the media should tell of the threats and what they entail. So that everyone has a heads up on what's going on. But on the other hand I think it is distasteful for you to show the terrorist planning or carrying out a supposive attack on the U.S. or any of our allies. It just boost up the terrorist's egos when they see it on tv...especially on American tv. And so they will try bigger and more attacks because they think they'll get more air time from you.
Posted By Anonymous Cynthia, Covington,Ga. : 5:23 PM ET
No free propaganda for radical terrorists. They want us to help them with their evil views and thoughts.

Please, lets talk about how we are goig to wing this war. Better yet, lets play videos from the beginning of the war in Iraq. Let's them think how powerful we are. How about those videos about bunker bombs used in Iraq!

Tnak you
Gus Aparicio
Posted By Anonymous Gus Aparicio, Huntington, NY : 5:25 PM ET
I do think the stories need to be aired. It keeps us all informed. This seems like a cat and mouse game. They release something, our govt. studies it. We release something and they study it. Each looking for a way to use the info for their advantage. I only hope that our people are better then theirs! For me personally, when I see these stories it reminds me to pray for those overseas protecting our country. keep up the great work!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 5:32 PM ET
Hey Gabe,
We should know what they are doing to our troops and the civilians. As for their little videos of threats,no,they shouldn't be aired. Let our governments deal with that. Don't give them that much exposure.As for Al-Qaeda,they are not threatening only the U.S. Granted,you are their number one target but any country remotely associated with you our your allies in Afghanistan,are fair game. Our country,Canada, has been threatened again just last week in a video.The U.S. and Nato are doing a great job.Our countries are contributing a lot in man power and financially to the Afghans. Canadians soldiers were killed while protecting the site and workers since last fall,when they were building a two way road that links Panjwayi to highway #1,between Kandahar & Kabul. Of course, the Talibans are going to go full blast against all the troops. Because,our troops are working hard(U.S. & NATO),doing some progress in every field(military,aid,etc,).So,yes,they are going to try and stop them.We need to know what's going on. But,be careful about the visual images,think about the families of militaries.But no,I don't want to hear their threats and give them the satisfaction to know that we are listening to those bastards. This is one voice that needs to be silenced.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 5:36 PM ET
it's more news than anna nicole baby drama.
Posted By Anonymous Marcy, Mobile, AL : 5:39 PM ET
Terrorist groups and terrorists themselves are looking for air time or print time every second of every day. It gives their "cause" meaning. None of this stuff should be aired or printed. Just like the thousands of idiots that do things for media attention, they should not get it. Many times, bad things would not happen if they knew that they weren't going to get a bunch of attention. But the media is too corruption minded and has too many rights.
Posted By Anonymous Mark Elms, Kingsburg, CA : 5:42 PM ET
I see his as CNN having an agenda and that is to discredit the Bush Administration in every way possible. Presenting only half of the story is not fair and honest journalism.
Posted By Anonymous Mary, Wyomng : 5:52 PM ET
Yes the media has a duty to report anything that is on national interest, what better way to, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Vital clues may just pop up in the least expected place or videos
Posted By Anonymous Richar Punko Perth Amboy, New Jersey : 3:30 PM ET
I believe the news media are aiding our enemy by reporting every idiotic threat they care to utter. Can't you people see how the enemy just dials you(news media)up and tells you what to print in order to gain world-wide publicity advantage over your own nation before the entire world. I often wonder who's side you're on. Does the need for sensationalism overrule your common sense?
Too often reports of the war effort lack any mention of the horrors that innocent families are being subjected too at the hands of radical Islam all across the globe. Downplaying won't do anything but enhance their strategy.
Posted By Anonymous Jack Pruett, Freeland, WA : 3:36 PM ET
NO. No legitimate news organization should give any coverage to either the Taliban or al-Queda; any attempt to legitimaize these murdering thugs by calling them anything other than what they are should be roundly dismissed by every person who watches the news.
Posted By Anonymous Jean Bennett San Diego California : 4:15 PM ET
I see his as CNN having an agenda and that is to discredit the Bush Administration in every way possible. Presenting only half of the story is not fair and honest journalism.

Well than, I would really suggest you stay away from Fox ;) Perhaps that's where you just came from anyways...
Posted By Anonymous Blake, Boston, MA : 4:25 PM ET
I thought the US had free speech? If you do not air threats to your country are you not censoring valuable information.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle Westmoreland, San Jose , Costa Rica : 4:43 PM ET
Used to be, back in the day when I was in J-school and had to wind the film through the balky processor by hand, you summarized information essential to telling the story, but incendiary features would be withheld.

I see no reason to change.

It's sufficient to say, "Taliban sources claim this year will be the bloodiest yet against their enemies," and not use their video stuffed with however many visual, anagrammatic, foreign-language subtitle, or other cues to their followers to put in place Plan X, Option Q, or whatever plans they want to synchronize.
Posted By Anonymous Scott Schrader, Mounds View, MN : 4:47 PM ET
Any comments from the Taliban or Al Qaeda should not be aired free to the rest of the world. Western media has been their desired venue/outlet for too long now, and frankly, most if not all of their statements are far less than newsworthy. If they need a media outlet, let them build their own media and towers on the Afgan/Pakistani border region.
Posted By Anonymous T Helsley Oklahoma City, OK : 4:56 PM ET
Instead of airing veiled Taliban threats, why don't you force them to come out of their caves and from under their rocks to tell their story. If they refuse to show their faces to the rest of the free world, then do not air any of their propaganda. When is the last time any of us saw a news conference from Al Qaeda or the Taliban? When that happens then it will indeed be newsworthy, but not until then.
Posted By Anonymous T Helsley, Oklahoma City, OK : 5:04 PM ET
The news knew better than to publish everything Tokyo Rose said during WWII. Giving the Taliban and other extremist groups free and extensive press plays into their hands. I'm sure they are delighted by all their press coverage. Their threats become something every Westerner can fear - which is the whole point of terrorism.
Posted By Anonymous Nancy L., Omaha, NE : 5:11 PM ET
Hell NO! We only encourage them by letting them "Be Heard"! These terrorist and those that came thousands of years before them are only strengthened if they believe that they bestow 'Fear' in the 'infandel'.
We are HELPING them by (getting the word out) THEIR WORD! What we should do is show footage of us kicking their ass while they run back to their caves and holes in the ground. Let us show the WORLD that we are dealing with COWARDS. Show the WORLD that Good Americans and Allies are dieing daily while our Governments try to 'Talk'. Indeed, we should send THOUSANDS of more troops in and COMPLETE THE JOB of getting the terrorist and ALL who support them out of the caves and holes so TRUE peace and take hold. THAT is what we should air and broadcast and post! DO NOT SUPPORT TERRORISM by reporting every time a terrorist shouts his crap waving his finger in the air. The entire world knows of their true intentions. IF they really want to die, lets help them get there as fast as possible and once the dust settles, years from now at the current pace, then THAT IS NEWS WORTHY!
USMC84
Posted By Anonymous R.K. HART, Houston, Texas : 5:23 PM ET
When you broadcast their threats you give them free media time to terrorize thus becoming part of the plot, unwittingly. This also gives them power internationally and serves as a communication device for them. Let us focus on the positive things being done so that this world becomes a more positive place. It's not rocket science....
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth, Jenks, Oklahoma : 5:30 PM ET
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