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The connection between society and its political principles has more often been revealed through the media whenever there is a criminal case. The media have been used in many instances as a platform to air views and opinions on why some people choose to engage in criminal and terror activities. Experts have pointed out the possibility that media coverage of a particular case may fuel extremists’ opinions and generate more mayhem. Where there is evidence that the media could be behind the causes of terror or terror activities, censorship of court proceedings and testimonies is used to protect the public from information which could incite it. This paper explores how different media outlets covered the sensitive case of Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a bombing and a shooting spree in the city of Oslo and Utoya Island. The paper also analyzes the political and economic interests served in the coverage and the reasons behind the way each media house covered the story.
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The Breivik case has attracted much attention from the public partly because of the media coverage. Through the media, people have come to learn about sociological issues of religion and multiculturalism in Europe, which the accused confessed were the reasons why he carried out the killings. In covering the story, media houses gave different weights in analyzing and presenting the news to the public.
The Seattle Times and the New York Times presented carefully drafted information (Randy, 2012). However, this presentation was somehow concealing to the public because they did not provide any direct quote from the accused. Also, the two articles do not explicitly mention the reasons why Breivik carried out the killings. While the Seattle Times is critical of the court process, The New York Times concentrated on the rulings in the court. In this ruling, the accused was to serve a prison term of 21 years. It added that the term could be extended if the accused is considered a danger to society in the future. In highlighting this detail, the paper’s editors seem to communicate to society that the courts are serving interests of the public by confining the accused person to prison with a possibility of extension (Glennon, 2012).
The reporting of the case in the social media like Facebook has not been censored as evidenced in the biased views and inflammatory languages used to express either anger or satisfaction with the sentencing of the perpetrator. The reporting on the social media is mainly aimed at persuading people to follow their thinking by expressing their opinions. In the social media, it is difficult to characterize the actual direction that the media are propagating because the media regulator has no capacity to control what people write on their walls. Different opinions and views are, therefore, expressed through the media without being censored. The social media have also opened a way for people to express their opinions on past events such as the Nazi regime and the killings of the Jews in the Nazi Germany.
Because of the nature of the posts that independent people make in the social media, it is difficult to have a clear cut on the kind of socio-economic interests which are served through this kind of platform. It has also been difficult for one to tell exactly who is benefiting from the opinions coming from the social media. The social media are an example of social groups and organizations that seek to influence the way the public views certain acts of terrorism. Social groups can also influence the proliferation of right-wing groups that support extremist activities in a given social setup (Facebook Page, Execute-Anders-Breivik).
In analyzing the reports in the media, it is clear that the media fraternity is serving political and economic interests of the general public by objectively but critically presenting the information to the public. However, the aim of the Seattle Times seems to point to the rights of criminals to have a public platform where they can communicate their political and economic views to the public (The New York Times, 2013). This is because the paper quotes experts in court proceedings and media who explain why it is important for the public to have access to all information as it unfolds in the court rooms.
However, it is not clear from the analysis of the story where the Seattle Times wants to stand because it also indicates that when it is proved that the information will do more harm to the public than it does good, it is justifiable to censor such information from the public. Ultimately, the reporting is objective and seeks to present views from both sides, without serving the interests of a particular group whether the accused and his right-wing extremists or the public (Vanessa, 2012).
In conclusion, the findings in this analysis indicate the connection between media reporting of a certain event and socio-economic implications of the report. It is a pointer to the power of the media to shape the views and opinions in society and, by extension, the general development of society. it is obvious that if the media choose to dwell on the reasons why Breivik carried out the killings, more right-wing extremists will rise up to perpetuate the course already started by the imprisoned criminal. In such cases, the media have a responsibility to exercise restraint and avoid reporting on issues that can generate emotions and anger among a section of the public.
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