The media should ignore ISIS propaganda, as it is seeking to exploit the lack of alternative media coverage in Iraq and Syria to control the portrayal of the region, according to new research by Australia’s leading foreign policy think tank.

“Islamic State has been able to exert significant control over the way in which they are depicted and the way in which they are perceived,” said Lauren Williams, author of the report for Lowy Institute think tank which is scheduled to be released next week.

“They are aware of the news cycle and what is newsworthy, and will tailor their material to the principles of newsworthiness,” she said in a lecture yesterday.

The ideal response to the propaganda would be to ignore ISIS videos, tweets and print publications entirely, however she recognised the reality that “it’s a commercial media market where the appetite for Islamic State stories is enormous,” she said.

While allowing that complete censorship of ISIS propaganda was unrealistic, she did advise that tit was crucial that its coverage in the media was heavily contextualised in order to debunk ISIS’ aims.

The main three themes that ISIS’ propaganda focuses on are persecution, brutality and utopianism, she said.

“Utopianism is starting to replace the brutality content,” she said. “Pictures of Islamic State as a functioning society, where things are running in order, where there’s effective government, effective policing, a happy place away from the images of war.”

Interviews with despondent returnees from ISIS-controlled territories could be a useful tool in countering the message that ISIS wants to portray, she said.