Police seek "effective counter-narrative" to appeal of fighting in Syria

The Metropolitan Police is refining its online communications approach around the issue of discouraging young men from travelling to fight in Syria, according to its head of specialist operations Kate Campbell.

Metropolitan Police: seeking to discourage people from going to fight in Syria
Metropolitan Police: seeking to discourage people from going to fight in Syria

Campbell told PRWeek that the force was looking at "practical ways" to get the message across about the dangers of such a mission in the face of glamorised presentation on social media of the idea of fighting by rebel groups in Syria.

The Met is planning to raise awareness of alternative ways of providing assistance, such as through supporting charitable organisations, alongside this message.

"Rather than telling people what not to do we want to raise awareness of how people can help," she said. "We’re trying to reach young people, and it’s a new challenge. It’s about how we can build and communicate an effective counter-narrative."

On Thursday the Met launched a campaign trying to persuade more women to intervene to prevent their partners and relatives from joining the civil war in the Middle East.

Campbell said the focus on women, and the planned focus on young people, were both the result of a "change in tone" being led by national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism deputy assistant commissioner Helen Ball, and the other heads of counter-terrorism in the UK, who are all women.

"There are women at the head and yes it’s changing the tone but not softening it," she said. "It’s about making the message more acceptable but still communicating what is a difficult message, that people travelling to Syria may be arrested when they return or may not return at all."

She maintained the aim was not to encourage women to become informants but said it was instead an awareness campaign telling people the ways to get in touch with the police.

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