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Terrorism (Propaganda)

Volume 980: debated on Thursday 6 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he proposes to take to control Irish Republican Army propaganda; and what estimate he has made of the value of propaganda by terrorist organisations.

In a democratic society the free expression of views by individuals or groups is a fundamental freedom. The Government do not believe in censorship and we shall continue to rely on the responsibility and sensitivity of the media in the reporting of events.

The value of propaganda by terrorist or other organisations is very difficult if not impossible to assess. But deeds speak louder than words, and the vast majority of Northern Ireland citizens, whatever their background, reject and abhor the methods of murder and violence which the terrorists use and seek to justify by means of propaganda.

Does my hon. Friend agree with me that when the IRA claims responsibility for a particularly barbarous and brutal act, it likes to hear it reported over the radio that it has claimed responsibility because it gives it almost a legitimacy and respectability as an organisation, as opposed to the band of murderers and thugs that it is?

I disagree with my hon. Friend on that point. To be identified publicly with an event such as the La Mon massacre is to be identified with the worst possible type of rejection of humanity and the worst possible type of bestial brutality. It does that group far more harm than good.

Does the Minister take seriously the suggestion that terrorist organisations have infiltrated certain elements of the press and broadcasting services? Is it not reflected in the recording?

I cannot answer such a question without more solid evidence than can be adduced in a question and answer period in the House. However, if the hon. Gentleman wishes privately to give me some factual evidence which can be added to the routine investigations that the security forces undertake in all areas of sensitivity we shall consider it carefully.