With concern growing among some journalists that the coverage of a Florida church’s planned Koran-burning could cause harm to Americans, some major news sources are saying they will limit their reporting on the event.
The Associated Press announced Thursday that it will not distribute images or audio of the event, and will seek to highlight that the event is being carried out by a small congregation.
“Should the event happen on Saturday, the AP will not distribute images or audio that specifically show Qurans being burned, and will not provide detailed text descriptions of the burning,” AP deputy managing editor told staff in a memo, as cited at The Hill.
“With the exception of these specific images and descriptions, we expect to cover the Gainesville event, in all media, placing the actions of this group of about 50 people in a clear and balanced context,” he added.
But Fox News on Thursday told the Baltimore Sun that it will not cover the event at all.
“We do not cover every flag burning that happens in this country. We don’t run every hostage tape,” Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente told the Sun. “If we tried to cover everyone who wants us to stick a camera in front of them, we’d run out of cameras pretty fast each day. But this is really about just using some judgment.”
That places Fox News apart from the other major networks. ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC have all confirmed to TV Newser that they plan to cover the event. Not surprisingly, some media observers have suggested that Fox’s decision to stay away was ideologically motivated, as the station identifies itself at times with the Christian conservative movement.
The Dove World Outreach Center, a small church in Gainesville, Florida, has gained a great deal of attention over the past few weeks with its announcement of an “international burn-a-Koran day” to take place on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
But the concerns that images of the Koran-burning could inflame anti-American anger in the Muslim world has reached the highest levels of the US government and the international community. Following condemnations by Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, State Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Obama himself, the international police association Interpol issued a “global alert” warning of an “increased terror risk” from the burning.
“If the proposed Koran burning by a pastor in the US goes ahead as planned, there is a strong likelihood that violent attacks on innocent people would follow,” the Interpol statement said.
And indeed evidence is growing that some extremist religious and political leaders plan to exploit the event for their own aims. In Kabul, hundreds of Afghans protested the Koran-burning Thursday, chanting “Death to the Christians.” And an Islamic activist in Britain has called for a “retaliatory” burning of US flags, which he has dubbed “burn the Stars and Stripes day.”
Meanwhile, ABC News reports that “insurgents in Afghanistan are trying to inflame villagers against the US by passing out leaflets that detail plans by a Florida minister to ignite a bonfire of Korans this weekend.”
The issue has sparked up a debate at NPR’s Two-Way news blog, where a reader writes, “Crack-pots can be crack-pots in their own little world. But the news media and those of us who follow it are encouraging them to be crack-pots and that’s what’s not okay.”
“When a story like this reaches the saturation point in the media, there are always those who say that news outlets are giving it too much attention and that it’s just not “news’,” writes NPR’s Mark Memmott. “There’s always the option, of course, of not tuning in or reading about it.”