Communication has become a weapon. In the age of information in which everything is told in real time via on-line newspapers, newscasts or press, terrorism fights its battle with using “news”, scoops, and threats, that circulate rapidly from one corner of the world to another with one simple click. The most dangerous groups of Islamic extremists train their militia not only by evaluating the physical strength, agility or ability to handle weapons, but also by focusing on a real communicative strategy.
Words, images, videos, and sounds: everything you need to trigger fear becomes means to ‘manipulate’ human mind, transforming psychological terrorism into the most powerful weapon of the third millennium. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi himself, the leader of the Islamic State, seems to have learned the art of war in Afghanistan, at the school of Musab al Zargawi, where besides having distinguished himself for bloody actions against US troops, he has acquired important notions on the use of the Web and of the videos.
In Europe for a long time now, the “network” has been under control. In the Arab world, Egypt has made the first steps, showing thus, how this media battle requires an intervention. Initially, after the murder of 21 Coptic Christians, the University of al-Azhar in Cairo, one of the main centres of Islamic religious teaching, had issued a decree that prohibited to the Muslims to watch videos of executions at the hand of the Islamic State, a choice that aims at avoiding the “sinister purpose” of influencing the faithful and at justifying extremist propaganda.
During the past few days, however, the president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as a result of the attack on June 29 in which has died the general prosecutor Hisham Baraka, has approved a new law that punishes by death terrorism-related crimes. Besides, it introduces important sanctions or measures for those who commit those crimes using the Web.
Heavy Fines (from 200 thousand to 500 thousand Egyptian pounds) for journalists who will oppose the official version provided by the government on any terrorist attack or operations launched against the militia.
The new rules are designed, in particular, to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood, the enemy number one of the president al Sisi, to spread “false news”. According to many international observers it is an attempt of the government to suppress freedom of expression and dissent, a version backed also by the 22 reporters who are still in prison, some of whom have been waiting to be processed for at least two years now. What is not clear enough is whether this type of measures are a strategy for resisting terrorism or for hiding the desire to control the press by preventing citizens from finding out the truth about what has really happened. What is certain is that information in the third millennium has obtained a leading role in world conflicts, beginning with the Islamic extremists who have made of it their strong-point.
Translated by Ecaterina Severin