ISIS 'banning' of beheading videos a 'not surprising' PR move

The head of ISIS has attempted to initiate a radical switch in PR strategy by reportedly banning brutal execution videos.

The media wing of ISIS has revelled in the distribution of professionally edited videos through social networking sites and news organisations over the past 12 months.

Videos have typically depicted atrocities such as beheadings and have been used as key propaganda and recruitment tools. However, they no longer appear to be having the required effect hence the change in strategy, according to Chris Calland, senior account director at Hanover Communications.

He told PRWeek: "ISIS is repulsive but sadly not all of the people within the organisation will be stupid. Releasing videos of executions in the first place was a calculated move: they wanted to terrify their opponents, intimate people to bend to their will, and rally their recruits by demonstrating their seriousness.

"With the mainstream media reporting ISIS videos less and less these days, this will no doubt make ISIS think whether it needs to be even more shocking in its actions or rethink its propaganda – hence why this move, if true, is not surprising."

The order to ban the videos was issued by the leader of the ‘Caliphate’, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Letters were sent out to ISIS media wings banning the production of graphic clips. Pro-ISIS sources have been quoted as saying this is to preserve the "general feelings of Muslims, who may regard the scenes as disgusting and scary to children," according to Arabic-language media.

The terrorist group has become synonymous with these videos, which first came to prominence in August 2014 when a masked man known as ‘Jihadi John’ appeared on camera and issued threats of violence. He went on to execute numerous hostages including journalist James Foley along with foreign aid workers Alan Henning and Peter Kassig.

Reports suggest that there is an internal split within ISIS as to whether such a media blackout should be put in place. At the time of writing the most recent video was of a child soldier beheading a Syrian army officer on 17 July.

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