Tuesday, March 2News For London

Islamic State’s media production in decline

ISIS media outputs steadily decreased over the last three months, according to the International Centre for the Studies of Radicalisation (ICSR) report.

Fighter with IS's flag. Credit to Wikipedia
Fighter with IS’s flag. Credit to Wikipedia

The release of videos and pictures by the Islamic State has fallen since August 2015, according to recent research.  The report has been carried out by Professor Aaron Zelin, an expert on ISIS’s communication at the ICSR.

Professor Zelin analysed the flow of media production by IS over the period January 2015-November 2015. He then divided the flow on a three months basis and in “Iraq non-military” and “Syria non-military” pictures.

Professor Zelin’s research focused primarily on pictures. He said: “I chose these measurements because I knew from prior research that 63% of Is’s media output came from pictures and just 20% from video messages.”

He found the media releases were at their highest level over the period July-September, with an average production of 6500.

The Islamic State’s production experienced a relevant decline since September, dropping to about 5000 over the period September-November.

Source: ICSR
Source: ICSR

According to Professor Zelin, this trend is explained by the military defeats that ISIS is undergoing on the ground. He said: “IS has lost territory in northern Raqqa governorate in Syria and many locations in Iraq, most recent Bayji and Sinjar, with Ramadi potentially teetering as well.”

The killings of IS media operatives following the US, French and Russian raids is another reason for the decline.

Professor Zelin argued: “We know of a number of media operatives that have been killed or seriously injured in airstrikes such as Junaid Hussain, Mohammed Emwazi, Abousamra and Denis Cuspert.”

The research also pointed out a decrease in the quality of the media production. Professor Zelin said: “IS’s social network become less cohesive in part because of the drop in media, but there may be other factors at play, too.”

The Islamic State is worldwide renowned for its high-qualified media skills. Over the last two years, the Islamic State propaganda massively used the social media to convey its contents and to reach as much public as they could.

As highlighted by a previous Aaron Zelin’s research, the main content of IS’s media released regards, in order of volume of outputs: military, governance in the Caliphate, Islamic propaganda, promotion of Caliphate, and enemy attacks.

Professor Aaron Zelin. www.flickr.com
Professor Aaron Zelin. Credit to www.flickr.com: George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

However, according to Professor Zelin, the turn-around reveals to the intelligence the IS’s struggles on the ground.

Professor Zelin said: “Military victories rather than counter messaging has a stronger effect on the media capabilities of jihadi groups.”

The decline does not mean that the Islamic State’s media machine is not near to be defeated. He said: “It remains very active, of course, but there seems to have been a peak between mid-spring and mid-summer this year.”

His research reveals  that the strongest province, including Raqqa, capital de facto of the Islamic State, keeps providing the audience with a high quality and consistent output.

The loss of provinces, the defeats on the ground and the killings of key figures in IS’s communication weakened the Islamic State’s media capability, having a negative impact on both volume and quality.