MPs concerned that media coverage is fuelling narcissism of Britons who join Isis - Press Gazette

MPs concerned that media coverage is fuelling narcissism of Britons who join Isis

The media has irresponsibly turned "Jihadi John" into a modern day Jesse James by repeatedly publishing his name and picture, a Conservative MP has claimed.

Tory Bob Stewart (Beckenham) said it was "utterly abhorrent" to see the references to Mohamed Emwazi after his unmasking last week, warning it could reinforce the belief of some that his barbaric activities were defensible.

Home Secretary Theresa May later urged journalists to be "responsible" in their reporting after defending the need for a free press.

The comments came during a Commons urgent question on counter terrorism and the threat posed by Britons travelling to Syria and Iraq to join the so-called Islamic State, also known as Isis or Isil.

During backbench questions, former Army colonel Stewart said: "I find it utterly abhorrent the media continue to put a photograph of a man who is a murderer and name him, and give him an identity by giving him a nickname.

"I find this is probably going to reinforce those people who think it is a good thing to do, some sort of modern Jesse James. I just find it abhorrent our media continue to use this man's name."

 May said: "I'm not going to comment on any individual case or where there are on-going investigations taking place.

"What I will say is I think we are all absolutely appalled and shocked at the horrific barbarism that has been shown by Isil and we would expect that to be reflected in any reporting that is brought forward."

Labour MP Nia Griffith returned to the subject, highlighting coverage of the three teenage girls who have travelled to Syria.

The Llanelli MP said: "Some of these sick individuals really revel and feel rewarded by high-profile media. Would you agree when there are young girls like this who choose to travel that, apart from instances where the identity is really needed for, perhaps, the public to apprehend them on their route, it would be far better if the media were to report it in a more anonymised form rather than actually naming and showing pictures again and again of those individuals?"

May said: "You make an important point. A free press is obviously part of what underpins our democracy but I would expect the media to be responsible in the way in which they deal with these particular issues, in a number of ways.

"You mentioned particularly the young girls travelling and whether or not their names should have been revealed. I would simply say to the media these are important issues, these families in that case are under considerable stress and trauma suffering as a result of their daughters having gone to Syria, and I would expect the media to respect that."

Conservative Julian Lewis (New Forest East) said: "Do you agree with me it is quite right when the identity of some brainwashed, narcissist, psychopathic killer is exposed, there should be wide media coverage of it, but do you also agree with me a degree of self-restraint at some point ought to be necessary if we are not to build up these bogeymen in precisely the way they intend us to do?"

May said: "I accept your point … and there are other reasons for restraint being applied when there are ongoing investigations and when there may be a risk to life involved."

Conservative Robert Jenrick (Newark) said: "It is every parent's worst nightmare that their children should do as these young girls have. But do you agree with me there is something to be desired in the approach of some in the media, and also I'm thinking of the Government's YouTube videos, that could make the full horrors of what these young ladies have got themselves into more apparent and try and deter young people like them from going to Syria and Iraq in the future?"

May replied: "You are right, it is important we make very clear to people the dangers and the horrors of what can happen when people go. Even if people are going to Syria with the best of humanitarian intentions they can actually find themselves caught up in horrific situations, including with terrorist groups.

"We have consistently been saying to people they should not be travelling to Syria and Iraq. If they wish to help and support the people of Syria who have been displaced by the actions of the regime in Syria then there are better ways of doing it."



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