HON 394—Terrorism and the Press

Paper #1—9/11

The attack of 9/11 in the United States has caused changes in many aspects of the world’s issues, including media. The event put media in a position to depict 9/11 from a multi-dimensional view, from politics, religions, and military to humanity. Across the globe from the United States, 9/11 was seen from a different view from the world of Muslims, Arabs, and Islam, attracting large attention from the media. Egypt is one of the Muslim countries, where Muslims comprise between 80% and 95% of the population. Thus, understanding how media covered the 9/11 event hopefully would provide a more diversified view of Muslim on the 9/11 attacks. The Al-Ahram Weekly in Egypt is as popular to the Egyptian as the New York Times to the United States of America. As one of the leading daily news organization, the Al-Ahram Weekly followed and covered the attacks of 9/11 closely.

As written in Terrorism and the Press by Brooke Barnett and Amy Reynolds:

..the element of violence appeared in 83.5 percent of definitions [of terrorism]; political goals appeared in 65 percent of definitions; inflicting fear and terror appeared in 51 percent of definitions; arbitrariness and indiscriminate targeting appeared in 21 percent of the definitions; and the victimization of civilians, noncombatants, neutrals, or outsiders appeared in 17.5 percent of the definitions.[1]

The 9/11 attack on the land of the American was an exact example of these definitions.

There were many articles on the Al-Ahram Weekly giving opinions of experts, activists, professors or directors of a variety of organizations covering the 9/11 event and its aftermath. The newspaper even had a special section focusing on this topic, provided reports, photos, interviews, analyses, and commentaries expressing a wide range of views and perspectives. On one hand, they all condemned the attacks and expressed their sympathy for the loss of innocent civilians, and related the 9/11 scene to the violence that had been going on in the Middle East, especially on the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, most of the writers agreed that the US had created an anti-America wave in the Middle East by engaging deeply in this area. The Al-Ahram Weekly voiced a number of international political issues that lead to these contradictory feelings toward the attacks, such as the America’s racist policies, U.S supporting Israelis, etc. In the issue No. 551 during the first week after the incidents, Al-Ahram Weekly provided articles on the reactions of the US administration, the condolences, condemnation, and mixed feelings of the attacks from the leaders of Muslim countries, including Egypt. Diaeddin Dawoud, chairman of the Nasserist Party in Egypt stated that:

What happened to America is great tragedy that we condemn categorically. At the same time, it is a pity that civilians had to pay the price of the American administration’s miscalculations. American policies have made a lot of enemies, not only in the Middle East but throughout the world — actions like dropping the [atomic] bomb on Hiroshima or even their position in Durban. I hope they learn their lesson.[2]

The Al-Ahram Weekly also showed the attitude of Egyptian politicians on the attacks: Mosbah Qutb, senior member of the leftist Tagammu Party said“…this is the United States whose policies are directly responsible for so many deaths and so much misery throughout the world, particularly, of course, in the Middle East.”[3] Through different issues during the first week of the attacks, it was clear that the Al-Ahram Weekly expressed its view from two perspectives. The first one was from the American’s point of view: sadness and condemnation of the event. The second one was strongly through the Muslim and Islamic people’ eyes: the attacks were the consequences of US wrong policies which spread hatred all over the world. Egyptian media had been more aggressive in its criticism of the United States, emphasizing the cause and effect relationship of the terrorism acts against the US. From these strong waves of criticism, it can be seen that the freedom of the press, from 9/11/2001, has become a privilege that not only pertains to American media. In spite of the political power of the United States, Muslim still raised their own voices and opinions about American policies. Other cartoons sneering at the U.S government policies, such as this one was popular on the cover of the prints after 9/11:


Not only did the 9/11 event impacted the Middle Eastern Media, but also the Vietnamese media. Across the globe from the US to a different region, my pen pal, Nhung Nguyen from Vietnam, gave me some of her thoughts and opinions. She grew up in the northern part of Vietnam. In fact, she was raised in the capital of the socialism, the center of the government of Vietnam. Given the fact that the Vietnamese media is heavily controlled by the government and the freedom of the press matter, this has a huge impact on the way my pen pal reacted to the events of 9/11. When the attacks occurred, my pen pal was in middle school. International news was not popular because the Vietnamese government did not have journalists based in other countries. Most of the news was translated from other channels abroad and was individually selected by the gatekeeper to be broadcasted. The international news broadcasting was limited to fifteen minutes per day. My pen pal recalled:

I still remembered the 1st time I heard about it was on the 7pm news on the national broadcast station. The images of the airplanes crashed into the North and then the South tower with panic people running in the streets were imprinted in my head. That night, the national station devoted the whole international news section to the 9/11 event alone.[5]

Days afterward, the television broadcasted and newspapers gave more detailed information about the attacks.  It was a surprise for my pen pal and other Vietnamese citizens at that time that the government, for the first time, let the media broadcast freely from different sources of news on this topic. They broadcasted it several times a day and for a couple of weeks after the event. This event drew attention from all over the world, not just Vietnam. But to the Vietnamese, the concept of the American Dream was not at all seen in this way.  My pen pal believed that the 9/11 event changed the US media in a positive way:

U.S media has changed much. Freedom of the press has been more protected and expressed by digging out information that was hidden, regardless of the political power. Take example of the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, I think the press all did a good job, and competition makes them try to explore different sides of a story.[6]

Even though a variety of approaches that the media used to depict 9/11, ranging from moderate, neutral, to biased, they all helped cover different aspects of the attacks. Overall, it can be seen that the 9/11 event has changed the media globally. Regardless of the political power and religious influence in a given country or region, the freedom of the press has become a legitimate rights pertaining to the media all over the world.


  1. Elmusa, Sharif. “A Tale of Two Massacres.” Al-Ahram Weekly Online. Sept.2001. Al-Ahram. Cairo,Egypt. Sept.2001


  1. Al-Ahram. “Condemning Aggression.” Al-Ahram Weekly Online. Sept.2001.Al-Ahram. Cairo,Egypt. Sept.2001


  1. “ The New York Times.” 02/01/2010 <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/sept_11_2001/index.html?scp=2&sq=9/11%20attacks&st=cse>
  2. Barnett, Brooke, and Amy Reynolds. Terrorism and the Press. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2009.
  3. “Contemporary Conflict.” SSRC. 02/01/2010 <http://conconflicts.ssrc.org/archives/mideast/shehata/>
  4. Nguyen, Nhung. Internet Interview. Jan 30th 20010.

[1] Barnett, Brooke, and Amy Reynolds. Terrorism and the Press. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2009.

[2] http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/551/fo2.htm

[3] http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/551/fo2.htm

[4] http://somebodyhelpme.info/cartoons/anti-Semitic/anti-Semitic.html

[5] Nguyen, Nhung

[6] Nguyen, Nhung