Prior to 9/11 terrorism was not considered to be a global problem, defined differently by countries under attack from terrorists.
All the while the unaffected countries would refer to the perpetrators as guerrillas, freedom fighters, members of an underground movement or some other term with a more positive connotation than the word ‘terrorist’.
Terrorism is undoubtedly an international phenomenon today, and requires a concerted response on an international scale.
All terrorist strikes have certain common features as they mostly aim their attack on the institution of democracy, economic nerve centres, symbols of national pride and security/strategic installations, on civilians to generate terror and fear psychosis, on worshipping places to injure sentiments and to whip communal passions. The maxim of all terrorist activities is that the end justifies the means, and they are aimed at gaining publicity and creating a feeling of insecurity.
Security agencies across the world are on tenterhooks, trying to guess the terrorists’ next move and billions of dollars are being spent on security and intelligence to avert further attacks. The time has come for the world community to unite and pass legislations in their respective countries banning the publication of the name of the organisation claiming responsibility for the terrorist attack, as also the cause which the said organisation is espousing.
If such an act were to be legislated in India the same would not be in violation of Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution which, being a fundamental right, guarantees to all citizens the freedom of speech and expression. This is because the State under sub-clause (2) of the same Article has the right to impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by said sub-clause in the interest of the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, public order, decency or morality, or against any attempt to create defamation or incitement to an offence.
Clearly, any law prohibiting the publication of the name of the organisation, which is indulging in terrorist activity, as also its cause, can clearly be justified in the interest of State security and public order, which, if not prohibited, could lead to incitement of offence.
In India we already have a similar provision in Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Child) Act, 2000, which prohibits any newspaper, magazine, or visual media from reporting details regarding the juvenile in conflict with the law, which could lead to the identification of the juvenile. The violation of this restriction carries a fine.
The law to be indicated would also have to prohibit the exchange of such prohibited information via email or through any website. The punishment for publishing or reporting the prohibited information should also be made very stringent to strengthen disincentives against violation.
Such legislation might provide a strong disincentive for terrorist organisations, which will then be compelled to resort to peaceful means to propagate their views or to espouse their cause.
India should take the initiative, urging the world community to expedite similar measures to address the huge challenge being faced by all of humanity, so that the world becomes a safer place.