Governmental Crisis Communication and Media Relations under Terrorist Threat


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The dramatic societal changes such as globalisation and information revolution transformed terrorism into a global challenge at the turn of the millennium. Today’s widespread global terrorism is a product of informational age because terror is a communication act, a means to transmit messages to the authorities. Terrorists use the media as a retransmitter and the society as a resonator. The potential of mass self-communication gives them the possibility to broadcast a large amount of data that can be also widely republished by the traditional media. Content analyses of the media show that journalists are responsible for provoking panic, victimization and collective stress within the community (Altheide, 2002, 2009). That is why media relations are one of the most important actions in anti-terrorist policy.
The presentation shows multidisciplinary analysis of terrorism in terms of social control and crisis followed by recommendations for governmental communication strategies. Terrorism represents an alternative way of social control ‘from below’ through fear, conflict and victimization of the society. The governments should increase their own informal ways of social control to oppose manipulations of any kind, including terrorism. That can be done by means of communication. Most crisis researches classify terrorism as a crisis of malevolence and a conflict-type crisis. Crisis management expert Paul Shrivastava (2005) qualifies terrorism crisis as a particular crisis type that needs special research and response strategies, including crisis communication and media relations.
The presentation gives recommendations for Antiterrorist Governmental Media Policy used in practice by the Information Policy Department of the Presidential Administration of Russia.

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Governmental Crisis Communication and Media Relations under Terrorist Threat

  1. 1. 1Governmental CrisisCommunication andMedia Relations underTerrorist ThreatElena GryzunovaPh.D. Student,Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University), Russia.Paper presented on the 10th Annual International Conferenceon Communication and Mass Media14 May 2012, Athens, Greece© Elena Gryzunova, 2012Intellectual property. No part can be reproduced without a reference to theauthor
  2. 2. 2Terrorism is violence thatconsists in itself a threat ofmore violence designed tocause social disruption,panic and victimizationwithin the community forthe purpose of politicalchange.
  3. 3. 3Characteristics ofModern TerrorismWidespread Civil targets, in the masscyberspace victimization Religious motivation, International use of or global distorted Islamic terms
  5. 5. 5Terror as a communication act.“Terrorism is aimed at the people watching,not at the actual victims. Terrorism istheater”. (Brian M. Jenkins, 1974) THE MASS MEDIA TARGET AUDIENCE: The authorities KEY AUDIENCES: • The sympathizing group: • 1 subgroup: supports the aims, not the methods • 2 subgroup: supports Terror act is an both the aims and the ideal media methods product • The victimized group • International institutions widely broadcasted
  6. 6. 6Communication Circle ofTerrorism Terrorists committing a terror act = sending a messageThe authorities’ The mediaconcession to broadcasting theterrorists = getting the news about themessage and giving terror act =feedback broadcasting the message The key audiences pressuring on the The key audiences authorities = discussing the news transmitting the about the terror message act = decoding the message
  7. 7. Antiterrorist Governmental 7 Media loyal terrorism-reporting press pool. Forming a Policy Development of consensus communicational strategies. Education, not victimization. Alert, not panic. Joint media/government simulation trainings. Designation of a spokesperson responsible forgovernmental antiterrorist communication. Creation of a special media center. Being premium newsmaker omnipresent in the news field. Joint media/ government control of interpretations and ofverbal designations. Restrictions for: 1) live and unedited interviews withterrorists, 2) secret details of counter-terror and hostage-release operations, 3) intimidating details. Soft control by means of exclusive information. Partnership and two-way communication: using the mediaas the source of information.
  8. 8. 8Levels of Social Disruption and its Prevention LEVEL TERRORISM GOVERNMENT •distrust to the authorities •forming patriotism, civilIndividual •political extremism consciousness and confidence •political apathy •image makingas a citizen •wish to change the state •news making and response to system or leave the country disinformation mass fear, inadequate •informing of terrorIndividual perception of reality, panic, manipulative mechanismsas a apathy, spontaneous •psychological rehabilitation aggression •general preventive measures:personality ethical and educational hostility, conflicts, violence, •disclaiming terrorists’ supportGroups and genocide, separatism of any social groupgroup •general preventive measures: inter-group dialogue andbehavior consolidative ideology total demolition of a social complex measures on all theSociety structure: revolutions, civil previous levels warsitself
  9. 9. 9Terrorism as a Crisis:the classification variations A form of crisis of malevolence (Lerbinger;Coombs) A conflict crisis (Quarantelli) or a mixedconflict-consensus crisis (Peek, Sutton) Political and social crisis (Morozova et al.) Terrorism crisis as a special type(Shrivastava). Terrorism crises “evolve endemerge as economic, social and political processesover time"; provoke both physical and socialdisruptions; require the design and development ofspecial systems for terrorism crisis communications.
  10. 10. 10The Crisis ParadigmCrisis is an unpredictable perceiveddisruption of a social unit whichthreatens its integrity, reputation orsurvival, challenges the public’s senseof safety, values or appropriatenessand requires immediate action underthe circumstances of uncertainty,urgency and increased attention.
  11. 11. 11A crisis can have either an objective or asubjective reason. It can be based on a real eventas well as on a rumor or a willfuldisinformation. The objective and subjectivesides are interconnected so the crisis extends onboth. Objective disruptions of the social structure (require crisis management) Subjective collective perceptions (require crisis communication)
  12. 12. 12 1. Precrisis Stage 1) Crisis prevention: - elimination of the social disruption threats - mass education against terrorist manipulation - terrorism risk communication 2) Crisis Preparation: - forming a crisis team and an inter-agency communication system - developing a crisis communication plan - creating draft communication strategies and comments - choosing and training a spokesperson - fostering alliances with other concerned organizations, the media and experts - development of consensus recommendations for communicational strategies with the loyal media, experts and other concerned organizations - trainings with the media, concerned organizations and the community 2.Crisis Event Stage3. Postcrisis Stage - responding quickly, being first, right and credible - setting up the coordination center, coordination of the- data collection and analysis of the crisis response information flows, speaking with one voice- follow-up communications: crisis response measures - designating crisis media center, cooperating with thereport, investigation results media- promotion of the activities and capabilities of the - establishing a hotline to communicate directly to theagency victims and other community members- modifying the crisis communication plan - committing to continued communication to the media- launching a public education campaign in mass media and the public, dominating in the news fieldto reduce creeping post-crisis effects and resist terrorist - explaining threats, risks and giving recommendationsmanipulation - monitoring the information flows, giving immediate feedback, correcting disinformation
  13. 13. 13Thank you for your attention!Contact information:Elena GryzunovaMoscow, RussiaMoscow State Institute of InternationalRelations(MGIMO-University)