Why we should all stop using the name 'Jihadi John'

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Wednesday 04 March 2015 14:00

A group of MPs believe the media should tone down its coverage of Isis and Mohammed Emwazi because it is inadvertently glorifying their horrific actions.

Colonel Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham, said the widespread use of photos of him clad in black and the moniker 'Jihadi John' was turning him into "some sort of modern Jesse James" (the infamous American outlaw).

I find it utterly abhorrent the media continue to put a photograph of a man who is a murderer and name him, and give him an identity by giving him a nickname.

I find this is probably going to reinforce those people who think it is a good thing to do, some sort of modern Jesse James. I just find it abhorrent our media continue to use this man's name.

  • Colonel Bob Stewart, Conservative MP for Beckenham

Speaking at the Commons on the same urgent question on counter terrorism, Labour MP Nia Griffith also brought up an important point about coverage of the three British teenagers who are believed to have travelled to Syria to join Isis.

Some of these sick individuals really revel and feel rewarded by high-profile media. Would you agree when there are young girls like this who choose to travel that, apart from instances where the identity is really needed for, perhaps, the public to apprehend them on their route, it would be far better if the media were to report it in a more anonymised form rather than actually naming and showing pictures again and again of those individuals?

  • Nia Griffith, Labour MP for Llanelli

In response to their points, home secretary Theresa May said that she "would expect the media to be responsible in the way in which they deal with these particular issues" but also made clear the importance of making "very clear to people the dangers and the horrors of what can happen when people go".

The Independent's Simon Usborne, who wrote an in-depth feature about why we label outlaws with nicknames this week, posits: "Clearly the nicknaming of notorious criminals is a minor issue compared to their deeds or threat, just as the media's demand for catchy shorthand is obvious. But how much does language matter, or even fuel the potential growth of that threat?" Read more here.

More: Why do we give notorious criminals nicknames?

More: Jihadi John - the student unmasked as Isis poster boy