- Publication date
- 5 August 2022
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
In the aftermath of an attack there is a large hunger for information and media often turn to those who have been directly affected. Also, in the long run the stories of victims/survivors can shape the narrative surrounding an attack. By portraying the victims/survivors in a certain way, and through choosing whether or not to share their stories, media play a large role in shaping the perception of victims/survivors in the public eye.
In addition, cooperation between victims/survivors and media can contribute to commemorative activities, play a part in the victims’/survivors’ healing process, and even be part of a preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) approach. However, especially in the immediate aftermath, being approached by media can be harming for victims/survivors if not done properly, especially if their needs and potential wish for anonymity are not honoured. This can lead to secondary traumatisation.
On 23 and 24 May victims/survivors of terrorism, journalists, communication and commemoration experts, and practitioners working in victim organisations came together at the Victims/survivors of Terrorism (VoT) Working Group meeting in Milan to discuss the perception of victims/survivors of terrorism in media and possibilities for cooperation with a commemorative and P/CVE aim.
The discussions led to the following key outcomes:
- The portrayal of victims/survivors has greatly evolved in the last 20 years — whereas with the London 7/7 attacks in 2005 media still showed many pictures of injured victims/survivors, this is no longer the case. However, there is still a disconnect between media reporting and the needs and wants of victims/survivors.
- Especially in the immediate aftermath of an attack it can be hard for victims/survivors to assess whether they are ready to talk to media, which often leads to regret later on. There is a duty of care for journalists in this regard, and a potential role to play for victim organisations as mediators.
- There is a significant difference between short- and long-term reporting. Shortly after an attack the hunger for information is the largest and journalists are under time pressure, but at the same time this is the phase when victims/survivors are at their most vulnerable. In the long term there is more time for elaborate cooperation, leading to more mindful and respectful reporting.
- Sharing their story in the media can be a vital part of victims’/survivors’ healing process.
This conclusion paper collects the highlights of the meeting’s discussion and includes recommendations for journalists, victims/survivors of terrorism and those working with victims/survivors, in order to ensure a respectful portrayal of victims/survivors in media and fruitful cooperation as part of P/CVE approaches.