This essay was written for my Foreign Policy Analysis class at UCL’s International Public Policy masters degree (MSc). The course, which was taught by Dr. Julian Wucherpfennig and Dr Jonathan Monten, focused on understanding the processes by which foreign policy goals are established and how policy tools are designed to help meet these goals.
In this essay, I look at the mechanisms that make some democracies more likely to negotiate with transnational terrorist organizations in hostage taking situations. I argue that because of the transparent nature of kidnappings, the attention they receive from public opinion and their prolonged nature, media landscape is an especially relevant factor, and one that has been largely ignored in previous research.
My theory and the reason behind the paradoxical nature of media plurality is that a diverse media landscape may be the cause of both terrorists’ will to target specific countries and of these countries need to avoid negotiations. This is because terrorists seek to publicise their attacks, which is easier achieved in a competitive setting that pushes outlets to be sensationalist. And because detailed coverage of attacks raises support for right-wing governments, tough stances in the fight against terrorism, and makes it harder for countries to diverge from their commitments not to negotiate.
If competitive media landscapes increase a country’s likelihood of being targeted in hostage-taking attacks, but also reduce its chances to negotiate, there are important implications for all actors involved in the theory. The media would need to balance its role to inform with the risk of being used by terrorists, and governments would need to coordinate strategies globally to avoid giving terrorists both the publicity and the resources they need.