com/group/Shetubondhon/message/5224 March 20, 2003 War reporting: Some body help there By Rezwan-ul-Alam, Ph.D. Introduction: Media's love for bad news is wel-known. The Iraq crisis has been in the news for months and we are sitting agape to watch the climax. with the whole world's eyes set on unfolding tragedy in Iraq, war reporting is likely to be more dynamic as rival news organizations engage themselves in their own battle of news. It will take some time to learn how war reporters have been gathering news on Iraq war; however, a look into the past examples may shed some light as to how war had been covered previously. Perhaps objective reporting when it comes to war is one of the biggest challenge before the media. Reporting from Iraq will show, if the media is still a prisoner of past practices or the information age has got better of it. This write-up, hurriedly compiled, attempts to put military-media relations during war in the historical context. The general trends: Writers and journalists generally agree that the pen is mightier than the sword. On the other hand, the war leaders, generals and the rank and file saw the criticism of war by writers as an act of treason. General William Tecumseh Sherman is regarded as one of the most notorious critics of the press. He banished newspaper correspondents from his lines in the American Civil War and threatened summary punishment for anyone who published information about his forces. General Sherman believed that there was a direct relationship between censorship and military victory and argued that the press should have no rights during war (in Frank and William, 1995). It is in this context the American journalist Lippmann commented: "Military censorship is the simplest form of barrier between the public and the event" (1921:43). There has been a great deal of research and scholarly works on various aspects of military-media relations in the First and Second World Wars. Knightley, in his highly acclaimed book 'The First Casualty', recorded a detailed picture of confrontation between the journalists and the military in the Crimean, Boer and subsequent wars. Most writers generally concentrated on confrontational aspect of the relations, such as the work of Cornebise (1984) and Crowe (1993). Some writers like Berger (1961) detailed how propaganda was mobilized during the two World Wars and Brown (1967) and MacArthur (1992) explored the area of censorship on war reporting. These works indicate that the relationship between the military authorities and the media during war time was not only cold but also confrontational. Journalists had to work under strict censorship imposed by the military leaders and generals. Accurate and objective reporting on the war situation was disturbed and, to some extent, became distorted by the imposition of military censorship. British censorship of the fighting in the First World War prevented objective reporting of the slaughter. There was, for instance, a complete ban on any photographs of dead bodies (Knightley, 1978).

The British perspective about the Gulf War and media propaganda has been more critical. Thrall (1996) refuted the . Baroody's study (1992) on the policy of media access by the US Department of Defense in the Gulf War indicates that the basic differences between military and the media institutions would be a crucial factor in the future as far as objective reporting of war of war is concerned. Considerable work has been done on the military-media relationship during the Gulf War in 1990. the invasion of Panama. the ruling elite has built upon press management from military involvement to military involvement to ultimately achieve a firm control of information leading to a grand finale of recyclable images that become U. Observing the situations in Vietnam and Bosnia. and the Gulf war. they were all essentially dependent upon the coalition military for their principal source of information about the progress of the war. Baroody (1992) observed: Military and media groups differed in the way each framed its vision of the role of the press. both forces must change their attitude towards each other to achieve a workable relationship. Voss. war coverage. therefore. Such new approaches gained currency after the Gulf War in 1991 and the many American military involvement in Granada. the press in America has gradually become more dependent on the government for military information. the public were denied of full disclosure of failures of the Allied forces. Hernon (1992) and Kennedy (1993). He observed that this dependency has led the media being passive participants in a conspiracy to not fully inform the public. In fact." Controlled coverage: Some American writers share similar views and they strongly attacked the media's dependency on military for warrelated information. It was monopoly in the disguise of pluralism. New trends: The current research on military-media relations is testing the notion that a hostile relationship between the two forces leads nowhere and that. Somalia and elsewhere. Notables among these are the works of Fialka (1991). Westphal (1995) remarked: "(the) coverage of each military involvement has been progressively more controlled." Making case studies of the Vietnam war. but simply because it reflected negatively on the Allied performance" (in Frank and William.According to historian Frederick S.S. with the result that the two groups had separate notions of the boundaries of appropriate practices for journalists during war. As Taylor (1992:268) observed: "Despite the existence of well over a thousand journalists in the Gulf from a wide variety of news gathering organisations with different editorial styles and journalistic practices. According to Westphal. military respondents noted the media's function as "force multipliers" to boost morale or confound the enemy. Haiti. 1995). the invasion of Grenada. "not because disclosure might help the enemy in playing to Allied weaknesses. While media respondent emphasised their roles as watchdogs or chroniclers of history. Reporters saw their jobs as interpreters of events. while some military respondents believed reporters should give facts without interpretation.

1995). The British position in this regard is often the opposite. As Beevor observed.S. also shows that the attitude of the U. particularly in the face of tabloid excesses. which has become the standard text for public affairs throughout the U. We may have to wait to see if the military briefing of war from its Allied Media Centre in Doha has really 'briefed' the spirit . The visual medium (TV) is the worst of the bunch. the British Army's reaction to public controversy and criticism can not be predicted easily." The report showed that the military has a strong disregard for the media.S. followed by the U.S. which was a government tactic to loosen the media's "grip on public symbolic life" (1988:350). Thrall argued that the primary responsibilities lay with government itself and not with the military. Conclusion: It is clear that misconception between these two organisations (military and the media) will not go away as this is an in-built system and no amount of education or good will can dispel it. compensated based upon copy-inch published. with the U. Newspaper were in 9th place. military. and focused solely upon their selfaggrandising ego and the increase in circulation their sensationalism spawned. The odd couple: The fact that bringing military and the media into a closer relationship is frought with challenges is evident from a report by Aukofer and Lawrence (1995) titled "Amercia's Team: The Odd couple A Report on the Relationship Between the Media and the Military". sometimes the Army overreacts and sometimes. In ranking its confidence in various institutions. By controlling what it believes to be the key link between war and opinion the media. it is phlegmatic" (1991:469). sometimes it is acutely selfconscious. includes a series of recommendations that both news organisations and the military can use to improve coverage and better inform the American people. He wrote: "Sometimes it [Army] consists of a tight-lipped reserve. There is also a real danger that the reconciliatory efforts may be another attempt to weaken the power of the media during an armed conflict. This report. Supreme Court. the medical profession and major educational institutions. The report. however. Morrison and Tumber's detail study (1988) on the Falkland campaign of 1982 highlighted the tensions between the media personnel and the military officers during the conflict.conventional wisdom that the military was primarily responsible for press restrictions in recent American conflicts. Thrall argued that the primary responsible for press restrictions in recent American conflicts. Aukofer and Lawrence (1995) quoted the remark of an Air Force Major who said: "Journalists are self-serving by nature. They interviewed journalists who accompanied the British takes force and concluded that journalists were badly briefed about the situation and material sent back by the media was "pooled". Congress and television news at the bottom of the ratings (Aukofer and Lawrence.the US government avoided the deterioration of public support for war. In the report.S. military towards the media has not improved much. the military ranked themselves first in confidence.

of true journalism.) . London. City University. from Journalism Department. (The writer has a doctoral dissertation on "Military rule & the media: A case study of Bangladesh" (1997).

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