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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Should TV interview militants?
Shamil Basayev
Was America's ABC television network right to broadcast an interview with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev?

In the interview, the warlord, who had claimed the hostage-taking attack on a Russian school in Beslan last year admitted he was a terrorist. But he said the Russians were terrorists too.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned a senior US diplomat in Moscow to express its "strong indignation" over the broadcast on ABC's Nightline programme on Thursday.

Should Shamil Basayev have been interviewed by ABC? What do you think of the Russian reaction?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far:

Terrorists want to be recognized and publicize their agenda. Giving them air time is simply giving them what they want. We are trying to fight and prevent terrorist acts, yet journalists are encouraging them by allowing them to go on TV and say what they want. It was wrong for ABC to broadcast such a disgraceful interview.
Chris, US

Yes they should have, because the world has the right to know the truth. It's only after hearing both sides can we decide who is right or wrong. Why shouldn't the Chechens have independence?
Rita Valencia, Tampa, FL

While ABC had the right to give Basayev a forum, I consider it poor judgement to do so
Gary A Hill, Oakland, CA USA
The complaint by the Russian government to a US diplomat was inappropriate, because our government had no powers of censorship over this broadcast. Nevertheless, while ABC had the right to give Basayev a forum on their network, I consider it poor judgement on their part to do so.
Gary A Hill, Oakland, CA USA

I don't care for what Basayev has to say. His actions speak volumes. But I'm all for it to be made public. I would hate that someone, in some kind of administration makes a decision on what is appropriate for me to know and what is not.
Karla, Zagreb, Croatia

I hope the Russian people realize that ABC and other TV and media are not controllable by the US government. ABC never should have shown this interview and I suspect they will suffer financially as angry viewers turn them off. However, as much as I detest them for doing this, I defend their right to do so because freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential to a free society.
Ray, Fort Lauderdale, USA

ABC was wrong to broadcast the interview. Although everyone has the right to know both sides of the story, the interview with a terrorist is propaganda of evil, which the whole world is fighting against. These interviews could encourage young confused kids to take wrong sides and end up being brainwashed to fight against their fellow men.
Sasha, Moscow, Russia

Let the public come to its own conclusions about these people
Frank, Sterling, VA
Interviewing terrorists, despots, and other unsavoury characters is nothing new. Dan Rather interviewed Saddam Hussein, Mike Wallace interviewed Ayatollah Khomeini and John Miller interviewed Bin Laden. News organizations regularly air tapes made by terrorists. Let the public come to its own conclusions about these people.
Frank, Sterling, VA

What's wrong with airing that? I can't give a judgement without learning the problems from both sides. Moreover we won't gain anything by being sensitive all the time. Stop whining and let's face the problems to find a solution for both sides.
Sherry, San Francisco, CA, USA

I would love to see the press use better judgement. More often than not though, it seems they are more driven by ratings than by any sense of morality or ethics. What this man did, and what he stands for is an abomination before all of mankind. Giving voice to his kind lends it a legitimacy that it does not need.
Len, Ohio, United States

For all those who applaud the fairness of this broadcast and are so much interested in both sides of the story: there is no other side of the story when innocent children and women are slaughtered by terrorists. Would you applaud if ABC interviews Bin Laden just to get the both sides of the story?
NK, New York, USA

They should have alerted the authorities
Rick, Pleasant Grove, Utah, USA
TV reporters should be able to interview militants if those militants are in jail. However, they shouldn't go to the militants' hideouts. In fact, they should have alerted the authorities.
Rick, Pleasant Grove, Utah, USA

While I think they should have every right to decide what they want to air, I think it is reckless and irresponsible to let mass murderers such as this terrorist have a forum. The Russian reaction is pretty much in line with most here in the US as ratings for mainstream media are in huge decline over past several years.
Barry, Columbus, OH, US

ABC did the right thing. The interview showed him as the monster he really is. That in turn might dissuade others from giving him any support or sympathizing with his cause.
Bill, Milwaukee, USA

A major step in understanding why terrorists attack established entities is to understand the terrorists themselves. Basayev should be allowed to broadcast his point of view to the world - whether he speaks from the heart or simply to promote controversial propaganda. If all we hear is one side of the story, then we fight a blind war.
Patrick, Washington DC, USA

We interview serial killers and other criminals
Mike, USA
I don't see a problem with interviewing militants. We interview serial killers and other criminals. It's an easy method to learn what motivates their warped intentions. I would welcome an interview with Bin Laden - it might help us find him.
Mike, USA

I've seen some responses referring to the collective 'West' regarding this. ABC is privately owned. They are free to show what they want, even if it's something that the rest of the US populous disagrees with. ABC is after ratings and shock value. Nothing more.
John B, Pennsylvania, USA

To those who accuse America of double standards, it should be remembered that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was interviewed by American television. I'm sure if Bin Laden were interviewed, Americans might express their revulsion at his crimes, but they would tune in to see what twisted things were coming out of his mouth.
Chris, US

Theoretically, the media has a responsibility to its viewers to present all facts and opinions. ABC attempted to help their viewers understand. It is similar to Time Magazine publishing an interview with a man who intends to be a suicide bomber. The American media does this sort of thing with people who intend to hurt Americans, too. The idea is to help others understand.
Megan, Portland, Oregon, USA

Living in a democracy should ensure the right to hear all points of view
John Stevenson, Cairns, Australia
Censorship and a single ideology are what men like Basayev would have us all live under. Living in a democracy should ensure the right to hear all points of view. Understanding what such people stand for will not change my opinions of Basayev or Bin Laden but it will show that they do not represent the vast majority of the Muslim faith.
John Stevenson, Cairns, Australia

Terrorism has nothing to do with freedom of speech or the right to know the facts. Its goal is just the opposite. The foolish idea of any political correctness in allowing the broadcast of interviews with these cold-blooded murderers is beyond absurd.
J Thompson, California USA

Giving anyone who kills innocent people a voice in the media only serves to give them the publicity they want. It never should have been aired.
Don, Sterling, USA

The US government can't prevent ABC, a private company, from broadcasting interviews like this, but the media have to acknowledge that modern terrorism thrives on publicity of this type.
Sue, New Jersey, USA

Let the world hear their side of the argument
AZ, Nashville USA
Often the primary cause of rise of militancy is failure or non-readiness of governments and people who make choices for the rest of the world to sit and listen to the arguments of these so-called militants. And if a TV interview gives these militants such a platform then so be it. Let the world hear their side of the argument from their mouth and then decide whether they support them or their cause or not.
AZ, Nashville USA

To the Russians - We ARE united in the war on terror. ABC's lapse in judgement or sensitivity does not reflect the views of most Americans. There is no justification for 9/11, for Beslan, for 7/7, or Sharm....
Kathy, USA

If we allowed these people an outlet for their message, however radical or offensive it may be, they might not feel compelled to find other, more violent means to get our attention. Silencing them only makes them more desperate.
Matt, San Francisco, USA

People who are able to sacrifice innocent children's lives in pursuit of their political and religious goals should not have been offered a free broadcasting time on any TV or radio station.
Dragana Polovina-Vukovic, Ottawa, Canada

No nation should have dual standards when it comes to condemning and fighting violence and terrorism of any form. Airing of interviews whether of Osama or Basayev should be condemned as well.
Aks, Tulsa, USA

What useful purpose this interview will serve? You are helping the terrorists.
JD, Ottawa, Canada

ABC did the right thing. And if the Russian controlled TV does an interview with Osama Bin Laden that would be ok too. What the world needs is more freedom of speech not less.
Rif, Sioux Falls, USA

Opinions have to be formed after all parties are heard
Victor, Miami
Although I am against these groups, it is correct to hear what they have to say. Opinions have to be formed after all parties are heard. You wouldn't be sure who is right otherwise.
Victor, Miami

Kudos to Nightline for having the courage to present that interview. All sides of the Chechen story should be presented.
Lucy, USA

I cannot believe that ABC's interview is more important that turning Basayev in to authorities. This guy killed hundreds of kids.
Jes Wheeler, USA

I am very disappointed in the US for airing this interview. Russia has every reason to be upset with us. When does 'freedom of speech' line start to wear out its meaning?
Verdeana Linnean, Idaho, USA

Far too often journalists will argue that their right to report on events or people creating them should not be hampered or scrutinized, for that would be, God forbid, censorship. These media 'professionals' seek out foul characters such as Basayev only to stir controversy.
Kevin, Reno USA

They are giving the terrorist organizations the legitimacy they are looking to seek
Clive D'Souza, Chandler, Arizona
No, TV stations should not interview terrorists. By doing this they are giving the terrorist organizations the legitimacy they are looking to seek. We are not helping the victims or the fight against terrorism by giving the terrorists coverage on an international network.
Clive D'Souza, Chandler, Arizona

This man admits to taking innocent school children hostage, and should be denied his liberty, let alone an international platform for his views.
Steven McDaniel, Sand Springs, OK, USA

Of course the interview should have been aired. It is not often that we get to hear both sides of any conflict.
Sam, US

Yes they did the right thing. We need both sides of the story. A free press for a free world.
James Care, Paris, France

We applaud them for their fairness and courage to broadcast this interview
Abullah, London
I think it was right for ABC to broadcast Shamil because the world has to know both sides of the arguments. We applaud them for their fairness and courage to broadcast this interview. But we must not forget that whoever commits terrorism must be dealt with as a terrorist.
Abullah, London

ABC was without question wrong to broadcast this interview. Any group that murders innocent people as a policy is a terrorist organization. All such groups should be ostracized and denied what they desire most, a forum for their views.
John, Lake Shawnee, NJ, USA

If Basayev had slaughtered American school children and ABC aired an interview with him, I wonder if ABC would withstand the backlash of American people. So much for the cooperation in the war on terror.
Andrei, Moscow, Russian Federation

The West is yet again only seeing what it wants to see, and supports terrorists with one hand while fighting them with another.
Dima, Moscow, Russian

The public has a right to know the facts
Chris, US
As long as the media make every effort to present the facts, untainted by political views, they should be able to broadcast whatever they like, subject to indecency regulations, of course. The public has a right to know the facts. People should have as much information as they can get their hands on in order to make the most informed decisions.
Chris, US

Of course ABC should have interviewed Basayev. After all, that is what freedom of speech is all about! However, I do think that the Russians should now throw in an interview with Osama bin Laden and see how the US reacts.
Michel, Geneva, Switzerland

ABC shouldn't have interviewed Shamil Basayev. This interview sets a dangerous precedent for others to follow. Why give a terrorist hero status?
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Responsible journalism will present all sides of the story. I can remember when the BBC used to do a hilarious lip-synching act with Gerry Adams because of UK government regulations against broadcasting the words of Irish militants. Russia's indignation is just as ridiculous and will be, I'm sure, equally ignored.
John Kearney, Toronto, Canada

ABC should not have aired that interview
Steve, USA
ABC should not have aired that interview. Russians have every right to be mad about it. How would Americans react if Russians interviewed Osama Bin Laden on their news TV?
Steve, USA

It's just as upsetting for us Americans to see Al-Jazeera interview Osama Bin Laden. So I clearly see the Russian point of view.
Matthew Powers, Austin, Texas USA

How would Americans feel if Russian TV interviews Osama Bin Laden and broadcasts it?
Sankara Muthali, Toronto, Canada

Television stations should never give an international platform to terrorists who kill innocent people.
John C, New York, USA

How would the US Government react if a Russian network with the global reach of ABC interviewed Bin Laden about 9/11 and in so doing were seen to establish a level of legitimacy that the terrorist did not have before the interview?
Nigel Darwent, Trinidad and Tobago





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