It’s an age-old tactic, but experts say terrorist attacks have recently grown in breadth and intensity. Most recent attacks have occurred in five countries.

Flowers at the scene of a shooting in Sousse, Tunisia, June 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Flowers at the scene of a shooting in Sousse, Tunisia, 27 June 2015. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

(We ran this story on July 7, 2015, but feel it deserves to be republished in the wake of recent attacks in Paris, the Sinai and Beirut. Please tell us how you feel about these events and how to combat terrorism, either by commenting at the bottom of this story, by posting on our Facebook page or sending an email to info@news-decoder.com.)

By Jasmine Horsey

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the 7/7 London tube bombings and the 6-month anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Coverage of the events is high on the agenda for today’s media, and memorials are taking place in both cities to remember the victims — 52 in the London bombings and 17 in Paris over three days in January.

The events in London and Paris were tragic. And we should not forget that they were part of a larger, global phenomenon.

This morning in the News-Decoder office, we reflected on how terrorism is covered beyond Western news outlets. Attacks outside of the West are comparatively under-reported, even though they occur more frequently and often claim more lives.

How to assess a trend that is global in nature, planned in secrecy and sometimes has no identifiable perpetrator?

DIFFICULT TO DEFINE

A quick search on the web made it clear that there is no one agreed set of data, in large part because different people have different definitions of “terrorism”.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is an effort to assess global terrorism trends. The index is produced by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace in cooperation with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, which is headquartered at the University of Maryland in the United States.

According to the latest GTI index covering the years 2000-13:

  • 82% of those killed by acts of terrorism were in five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.
  • 5% of the 107,000 killed by terrorism occurred in countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which groups 34 developed economies.
  • In 2013, 66% of attacks were claimed by four organizations: ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Many people would quibble with the data, arguing that some of the attacks were not “terrorist” in nature and that others, not included in the index, were. The GTI acknowledges a number of unknowns — perpetrators, victims and intended targets.

But the GTI and other analysts agree that the breadth and intensity of terrorist attacks — at least by their definitions — have increased in recent years.

Terrorism will always be difficult to define and quantify, and regional media will always tend to pay closer attention to violence that is close to home.

What are your thoughts about how best to combat terrorism? How could the media improve its coverage?

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