Dilemma of Journalists and Wartime Coverage
With military conflicts then, reporting raises an interesting dilemma for some; one the one hand, the military wish to present various aspects that would support a campaign, while on the other hand, a journalist is supposed to be critical and not necessarily fall in line. The is captured well by Jane Kirtley, a professor of Media Ethics and Law:
Shortly after the end of the American Civil War, journalist F. Colburn Adams wrote, "The future historian of the late war will have [a] very difficult task to perform ... sifting the truth from falsehood as it appears in official records."
Similar to the oft-repeated axiom that truth is the first casualty of war, Adams' observation succinctly summarizes the nub of the conflict between the military and the news media. The military's mission is to fight, and to win, whatever conflict may present itself-preferably on the battlefield but certainly in public opinion and the history books. The journalist, on the other hand, is a skeptic if not a cynic and aims to seek, find and report the truth - a mission both parties often view as incompatible with successful warfare, which depends on secrecy and deception as much as superior strategy, tactics, weaponry and manpower.
- Jane Kirtley, Enough is Enough, Media Studies Journal, October 15, 2001
Often, especially when covering conflicts, the media organizations are subject to various constraints by governments, military, corporate pressure, economic interests, etc. Sometimes, however, the media are more than willing to go along with what could be described as self-censorship, as highlighted vividly in the following:
We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know about and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.
- Katharine Graham, Washington Post owner speaking at CIA's Langley, Virginia headquarters in 1988, Reported in Regardie's Magazine, January, 1990, Quoted from David McGowan, Derailing Democracy, (Common Courage Press, 2000), p.109.
Other times, the sources of information are limited. For example, "Information warfare" of a military or government might be targeted at "enemy" nations and groups, but often affects their own populations:
In [many cases], the U.S. and other western news media depend on the military for information... And when the information that military officers provide to the public is part of a process that generates propaganda and places a high value on deceit, deception and denial, then truth is indeed likely to be high on the casualty list.
- William M. Arkin, Media principles: Killed by friendly fire in US infowar, Index on Censorship, 13 November 2002
Journalist Harold Evans addresses the issue of war correspondents duties, as being the challenge of patriotism versus professionalism:
The history of warfare suggests this is not a false antithesis. Governments, understandably, put a priority on nurturing the morale of the armed forces and the people, intimidating an enemy with the force of the national will They have few scruples about whether they are being fair and just as their propaganda demonizes an alien leader or even a whole population. The enemy is doing the same to them. That is the emotion wars generate, inviting a competitive ecstasy of hate. There is a duel in vicious stereotypes in propaganda posters, illustrations and headlines; populations would be astounded if they could see how they and their leaders are portrayed by the other side. Authority resents it when a newspaper or broadcast shades the black and white.
... Atrocity stories have been debased currency in the war of words. The other side's are propaganda and should be ignored or discredited by patriotic correspondents; ours are an integral part of the cause, and should be propagated with conviction, uniting people in vengefulness for a cause higher than pedantry. Only after the conflict, the zealots' argument runs, is there time enough to sift the ashes for truth. History knows now that the Germans did not, as charged in World War I, toss Belgian babies in the air and catch them on bayonets, nor boil down German corpses for glycerin for munitions-a story invented by a British correspondent being pressed by his office for news of atrocities. The French did not, as the German press reported, routinely gouge out the eyes of captured German soldiers, or chop off their fingers for the rings on them. Iraqi soldiers invading Kuwait did not toss premature babies out of incubators, as The Sunday Telegraph in London, and then the Los Angeles Times, reported, quoting Reuters. The story was an invention of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait lobby in Washington and the teen-age "witness" who testified to Congress was coached by the lobby's public relations company. It was only two years later that the whole thing was exposed for the fraud it was. But the myth galvanized public opinion at a critical moment on the need to go to war, as it was intended to.
... History is a mausoleum of errant emotions: Who is the more patriotic-the government that conceals the blunders its soldiers endure, the cruelties they may inflict, or the correspondent who exposes them so that they might be rectified?
... [In the dilemmas journalists often have between reporting and intervening], Alan Dower, who reported the Korean War for the Melbourne Herald ... reporter Rene Cutforth and cameraman Cyril Page saw a column of women in Seoul being marched off to jail; many were carrying babies. The journalists were told the families were all to be shot because someone in the street had identified them as communists. Dower, who was a commando before he was a reporter, was carrying a carbine. He used it to bully his way into the jail, where the trio of journalists found that the women had been made to kneel with their babies in front of an open pit, two machine guns at their backs. Dower threatened to shoot the guard unless he took the trio to the prison governor's office. There Dower aimed his carbine at the governor and threatened: "If those machine guns fire, I'll shoot you between the eyes." Dower, making another threat, that of publicity, secured a promise from the United Nations command in Seoul that it would stamp out such practices.
Did Dower break the normal limits of journalism? Yes, and he was right to do so. One's first duty is to humanity, and there are exceptional occasions when that duty overrides the canons of any profession.
- Harold Evans, Propaganda vs. Professionalism, War Stories, Newseum (undated)
Phillip Knightley, in his award-winning book The First Casualty traces a history of media reporting of wars and conflicts and towards the end says:
The sad truth is that in the new millennium, government propaganda prepares its citizens for war so skillfully that it is quite likely that they do not want the truthful, objective and balanced reporting that good war correspondents once did their best to provide.
- Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty, (Prion Books, 1975, 2000 revised edition) p.525
|Заняття № 6|||||Wider Propaganda|