Was CNN and Sky News Coverage Of The Bataclan Attack Irresponsible?

Christopher Walsh is critical of how some media outlets dealt with the breaking news from the Paris attacks. Christopher Walsh is a frequent commentator on legal and ethical issues.

I happened to catch the first breaking news reports coming from Paris. In the following hours I flicked back and forth between Sky News and CNN. Reports were coming in that the Stade de France, restaurants and a music venue had all been attacked and the attacks were ongoing.

News began to emerge that a number of fans at a concert in the Bataclan had been killed and others had been taken hostage. Before any rescue attempt could be made both CNN and Sky News were reporting about victims trying to hide from the Islamists. All I could think of was how irresponsible were these news channels for broadcasting that the Islamists did not get everybody still trapped in the building. There were survivors trying to conceal their presence and they were phoning out for help and not to be given away by the media.

Last night both CNN and Sky News broadcast that the lead singer of rock band Eagles of Death Metal had given an interview with Vice about how Paris terrorists slaughtered fans hiding in the band’s dressing room after attacking their concert.

CNN reported how an emotional Jesse Hughes explained in an interview to VICE how "Several people hid in our dressing room and the killers were able to get in and killed every one of them, except for a kid who was hiding under my leather jacket."

CNN reported how Denis Plaud “and about 15 others hid for three hours in a small room upstairs of the theater, struggling to keep quiet. The sound of machine guns was so close it shook the walls, he said.” Here:

Scottish women Christine Tadhope and Mariesha Payne escaped with their lives by hiding in a cellar. Both women confirmed hearing the attackers talking on walkie talkies (or mobile phones?).

At one point we could hear the terrorists on their walkie talkies. We weren't sure who they were speaking to, but the two Italian guys (who were with them in the cellar) spoke French and told us they had said they had hostages and they were speaking to the police.

The accounts from Plaud, Tadhope and Mariesha above confirm that the attackers were hunting for those in hiding both upstairs and down of the Bataclan.

All media will understandably want to be first to break the news, but to broadcast in a live hostage situation that people are hiding inside from the attackers is unconscionable. It takes little imagination that the attackers might monitor the news channels to keep themselves abreast of developments. It is equally as reasonable to assume that they might be in contact with associates outside.

I find it difficult to comprehend for any professional news agency not to foresee that there reports could put people’s lives in more peril than they were already in. On this occasion the urge to break a good story seems to have prevailed over consideration of the safety of those frantically trying to save their lives by hiding from their attackers.


  1. Christy, I would imagine that IS were aware people would be hiding from them within the venue hence why they entered the bands dressing room and backstage areas. If the media reported on police manouevres outside, then perhaps it would have a negative effect on the situation. It was reported that the missing jihadi Saleh Abdeslam phone records show him in the area when Hollande went down to the siege area, that was irresponsible on his part. Good to see you writing articles though, I look forward to some law themed ones!

  2. DD

    Thanks for your comments. IS maybe expect people to hide -and maybe after a quick search they did not find all of them -why give them a heads up that they missed someone for them to search again more thoroughly? It may never be known if the killers found people of their own accord or CNN & Sky drew their attention to look for them? Sky and CNN had no right to take away what for some might have been their only chance to survive.

  3. Christy, did the gun men have TV's? I think Vice magazine has a video interview with the band playing the Bataclan (Eagles of Death Metal) coming up soon, from the preview clips available its grimly fascinating.

  4. They may have watched their handy work on their iphones or others outside were keeping them filled in. We know they called the police to say they had hostages to buy themselves more time to keep killing. And we know that Sky and CNN were broadcasting that there were still people alive in case they missed any. At some point down the line when families of those who were killed in changing rooms or closets come to terms with their loss I can see some of them sueing the news networks for contributing to the death of their loved ones or increasing their chances of being discovered.

    I do know that when 4 INLA members took hostages in 1992 Sonny Glennan and John Kennaway told me that they listened to everything on the news to keep themselves informed.

  5. French security forces have confirmed that the Bataclan attack was being directed from outside. Once the attack was underway the only logical for further instructions can only have been to make the Islamists aware that there were people still alive and in hiding. How many people were killed because of Sky and CNN reporting that they were trying to hide from their killers? I hope the families sue CNN and Sky for aiding and abetting in the murder of their loved ones in the Bataclan.

  6. Aiding murder? 90 people lying dead or dying out of an audience of 1500 might imply some may remain hiding.
    Jesus Christy, have you been reading too much of the shite the 1916 Societies churn out so effortlessly? I gather they think Muslims (short for brown people) are purely reactionary creatures who can only tread the path created for them by the West.

  7. DaithiD

    Have you some evidence that says the Islamists were not assisted by repeated news reports that people were hiding from them? They may have looked for survivors or assumed those who escaped got out through an exit and were gone but we cannot rule out that they kept looking because they were repeatedly prompted by continuos news reports that they had not found everyone. If the Islamists were maintaining contact with the outside the only logical reason for that was to provide updates -the killers inside already knew what they were to do and were doing it. It probably helped them to be informed that people were still hiding from them -so they searched more thoroughly. Can you seriously not grasp how dangerous it was to keep broadcasting that the Islamists had not found everyone? Have you ever sold a car and hoped the prospective buyer does not see some blemish or other even though they are inpsecting the car as carefully as they can? --they will eventually find the blemish if someone keeps prompting them about the existence of the blemish that they have not found. You have no evidence to support your assertions that those killed while hiding would still not be alive today even if SKY and CNN had not blown their cover? You are very defensive of ruthless news agencies more concerned with competing with each other than the safety of people trying to hide for their lives.

    The point of hiding is to hope your would be killers do not find you -Sky and CNN could have helped save lives by not broadcasting about their existence instead of putting them in more danger by alerting the Islamists to their presence. Sky & CNN did more to help the Islamists kill than they did to help save a single life in the Bataclan that night.

  8. ...In other news, there is a probability somewhere in the world a polar bear has crapped in a desert.

  9. DaithiD

    I take it you are sensitive about your shares in Sky media or something? Initially you were scornful because you figured the Islamists would not have access to TV's. Now we know they were in contact with associates outside as I suggested above. The conversation would have been pretty limited and logically would have involved running commetary on the hunt for hidden survivors before going to collect their virgins in Islamic heaven -we know that survivors heard them talking on phones while they were searching the building for them.

    You can mock but you cannot disprove that Sky and CNN broadcasts on the unfolding Bataclan attack would have done more to assist the Islamists than to help save a single life inhiding within that building. If nothing else, Sky and CNN had no right to take away what was the only chance of survival -hiding and hoping that the Islamists would give up looking for them. I can see a potential law suit down the line by survivors and/or bereaved families against irresponsible reporting that night.

  10. Christie one of the attackers was outside the Bataclan and in conversation with the attackers inside, but anyway, I cant disprove anything. Im no fan of the media either, but the sort of thing you are proposing wouldnt seem out of place if it occured in Egypt or Saudi Arabia today, worthing thinking if this is the route to go down. Politicians would no doubt love it. Peace Christy, a Guinness on me if you are around Galway Friday.