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Was careless coverage to blame for racial conflict?

The locals down at the Shire who call Cronulla their beach have been smirking a bit lately, in between hoisting Australian flags, sending each other text messages and dodging police roadblocks.

As one young bloke, 19-year-old Glen, said to The Australian on Tuesday night while a huddle of locals stood in the drizzle watching police check vehicles on the the Kingsway, the problem with Muslim "interlopers" had been going on for years.

"It′s only become an issue and the cops are only doing something about it because you lot [the media] have decided to take notice," Glen said. "It′s been going on for years, you guys just didn′t know about it."

Glen probably doesn′t know much about news cycles, but if he thought about it he would eventually start to suspect that if the bashing of the North Cronulla lifesavers that instigated the present "us v them" conflict had taken place before the traditional Christmas quiet news period, it might never have been more than a blip on the radar.

The real issue, however, is what happened next and to what extent broadcast media and print fanned the flames of racial discord ahead of last Sunday′s riot at Cronulla beach in Sydney′s south.

Islamic Friendship Association president Keysar Trad has firm ideas about who pushed the story further than it should have gone and says he has started a process of complaints against them.

"To be quite honest I feel the incitement is continuing to this day," he says, singling out the issue of Muslim men not embracing Australian society as well as some commentators who encouraged a fight-back.

"I am in the process of collecting transcripts; we have to take this issue of incitement very seriously and we should expect commentators to be much more responsible."

Sheik Shady, a cleric at Lakemba Mosque in Sydney′s west, is also critical of the role played by the media.

"We do put a large proportion of the blame on the media, especially the talkback shows that are really provoking a lot of Australians against people of different races so people start to feel they are in danger, which is not true," he says.

Neither will name who they are talking about, but attention has elsewhere fallen on 2GB′s Alan Jones, who went hard on the issue last week and urged locals to come out for the show of force.

"A rally, a street march, call it what you will. A community show of force," he told listeners, at one point even going so far as to push for locals at Cronulla to get Pacific Islanders involved because "they don′t take any nonsense".

French media had a rather novel ethical approach to covering the recent Paris race riots after the images reached saturation point: they simply stopped showing them.

Incensed critics have labelled the move censorship, accusing the French media of political biases and an over-inflated sense of power. Yet others have seen the move as an indication that the media -- a powerful social force -- could also possess a social conscience.

"We have a unique situation in France at the moment. Because events have been continuing for some weeks, we have the time to consider the impact of our reporting," says Antonin Lhote, chief editor at Canal Plus, one of France′s privately owned television stations.

"Often when we film something, we are unaware of its impact until later. Our job is simply to witness.

"But here we have the unique opportunity to consider what the images mean and whether they should be shown."

The difference, Lhote says, is that the station has decided not to show the images it obtains for fear of spreading what he calls a contagion through the thoughtless dissemination of the images.

"It′s not about the violence," he says. "Iraq, Tel Aviv, Pakistan ... these are all much more violent images. But they are news. This is not news; it is a show. We know there can be a perverse relationship between young men and the media, and they are giving us beautiful pictures ... things burning, people running around in the night, it looks wonderful. But what we want to do is draw the distinction between spectaculars and news."

For now, Trad doesn′t call for a similar style of self-censorship here and says he thinks the coverage on the whole has been balanced and may even have done some good. "I thought the images run in newspapers were good as they showed young Muslim men putting their hands behind their back, smiling and trying to reconcile," he said.

"It was a good image compared to the others who were trying to beat them up."

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Tuesday 31 October 2017

Eight people have been killed and at least 11 injured in an "act of terror" after a man drove a pick-up truck onto a path for cyclists in New York city.

The 29-year-old driver of the truck was shot by police in the abdomen and taken into custody after he crashed the truck into a school bus and fled his vehicle, according to New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill.

Speaking at a press conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the attack was "a particularly cowardly act of terror". 

The mayor said: "It's a very painful day in our city. Horrible tragedy on the West Side.

"Let me be clear, based on the information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror. Aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them.

"We at this moment based on the information we have, we know of eight innocent people who have lost their lives. And over a dozen more injured."

Mr O'Neill said the driver was armed with a paintball gun and a pellet gun.

The driver hit a school bus, injuring two children and two adults on board before exiting the pick-up truck.

The man was shot in the abdomen by a uniformed officer before being taken into custody.

The commissioner said a statement made by the suspect when he exited the vehicle was "consistent" with a terrorist attack.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there was no evidence to suggest a wider plot or wider scheme.

US President Donald Trump said the attacker was "very sick" and a "deranged person".

British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: "Appalled by this cowardly attack, my thoughts are with all affected. Together we will defeat the evil of terrorism. UK stands with #NYC."

A police spokesman posted a photo showing a white pick-up truck on the bike path with its front end mangled and the hood crumpled.

The rented truck had logos of the Home Depot hardware store chain.

Mangled and flattened bicycles littered the bike path, which runs parallel to the West Side Highway on the western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River.

One witness told reporters at the scene that he heard about five gunshots before seeing a large man being taken into custody.

"He seemed very calm," the witness said. "He was not putting up a fight."

A witness told ABC Channel 7 that he saw a white pick-up truck drive south on the bike path at full speed and hit several people.

A video apparently filmed at the scene and circulated online showed scattered bikes on the bike path and at least two people lying on the ground.

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