Some form of controversy has been regularly generated between the press and the military especially the question of media access to the battlefield. Conflict between reporter and the military is not new. As war correspondents became of age in the Civil War, the military began its determination to protect its operations. The media have often called this determination “censorship. ” The military/media relationship is seriously degraded because of mistrust between the two entities.
Sources of this mistrust are analyzed, to include: cultural differences; the perception of biased reporting; misunderstanding and ignorance; and speculation. In any operation there are many aspects of military/media relations which include operational security, the press pool system, logistics, public opinion, etc. However, there has been animosity between journalists and the military. The military frequently views press as offering only potential harm not benefit (Carruthers, 2000).
The press, on the other hand, has a history of being critical of the military. For instance, U. S. media and professional associations insist that the military must accommodate the press in wartime situations, for three good reasons which include: the press has always been present when troops have been involved; the public has a fundamental right to know; and restrictions put violate the First Amendment. Yet on some ground between the military operational requirement for information to be made available only on a basis of needing to know, and the right of the citizens of a democracy to know about what their military is doing, lies a middle ground (Dandeker, 1995).
Generally, soldiers understand fighting and journalists understand communicating, yet none of them knows that the political impact of combat depends on how the fighting is communicated. Hence both sides need one another. Key civilian and military leaders have now embraced the fact that successful inclusion of the press to ensure adequate coverage is not an optional luxury, but rather is a necessity in today’s information age and the expectations of the citizens.
The benefits gained from the news media coverage of military operations outweigh the drawbacks, and therefore press coverage should be permitted. There is no set solution appropriate for every situation, since every war is unique. But improvements in military planning, officer training, and press indoctrination will help solve some of the current problems in the military/media relationship. How media assist the conduct of military operations
In today’s technology-driven world, the media is a fourth dimension added to air, land, and sea and the operational commander must contend with this potent entity to be relevant. Moreover, the media is an accelerator of immense importance in today’s world in respect to the operational factors of time, space, and force affecting the operational commander decision-making. The reason why the military should engage the media is probably best stated by General (Ret) Dennis J. Reimer in a 1997 memorandum to his senior Army leaders.
“Our success, as an institution, depends on the degree to which all senior leaders communicate clearly to the people. It is in fact part of your METL [Mission Essential Task List],” said Reimer. To begin with, the military has the need for improved defense related public relations. The media is an important force multiplier, and it must be harnessed to win the battle of the hearts and minds of the people and keep them fully abreast of developments at home and abroad.
This will ensure that they are not misled by rumors, propaganda and dis-information; this could happen if they do not have access to a truthful and speedy account of the facts and the progress of events. Secondly, the media is important in projecting the operations to the remotest parts of the country and arousing nationalism and patriotic fervour in the nation. Thirdly, having a media team at each level of command down to the battalion level is of great help to project the activities of the armed forces through films and other means.
The procedure evolved provide for regular operational briefings by the operational/intelligence staff at headquarters or by the concerned corps/divisional commanders. Fourthly, training selected service officers and men in media work by running suitable courses for them on a regular basis and also media personnel need to understand the organisation, role, ethos and fighting capabilities of the armed forces and the characteristics of its various units is most beneficial (that is , media-military interface). Fifthly, limiting journalists’ access to a war can also work against the military.
Galloway pointed to the Persian Gulf War as an example. “When the war was over you had no proof of the efficacy of your efforts and your soldiers’ efforts to take up on [Capitol] Hill at a very difficult time when troop cuts, budget cuts, drawbacks are all under way,” he said. Despite the constant tension and sometimes opposing goals of the military and the media, the military’s primary role is “to support and defend the Constitution of the nation, the First Amendment of which is freedom of speech and of the press. Finally, having media-military interface there is hope for prompt and timely information in an age when news is increasingly being transmitted and used instantly, with TV news being broadcast on the hour, every hour (Krishna, 2000). How media limit the conduct of military operations The longstanding conflict between the news media’s need for access and the military’s need for secrecy has continued during the war on terrorism, journalists agree. If anything, the tension between the two groups has gotten worse.
For instance, during the war in Afghanistan, Pentagon senior spokesman Bryan Whitman said the military understands reporters’ concerns but that the top priority must be troop safety. “Ensuring … that what we do with the news media in the Pentagon or in the field doesn’t do anything to jeopardize the success of the operation or endanger the personnel that are participating in the military operation … has to be balanced all the time with … how much reporting can be taking place at any given moment,” he said. (Wilcox Jr, 2002)
But author and former war correspondent Joe Galloway, whose book We Were Soldiers Once … and Young documents the first major U. S. ground battle of the Vietnam War, said that Vietnam changed the mindset of the military because of the open and unrestricted reporting done by journalists. Most of the times, the military is willing to learn, the journalists are not; pointed out by Galloway as evidenced by the numerous invitations he has received from the military to speak about the subject. He has not received any invitations to speak to news organizations or journalism schools.
The media is also believed by them reporting from the battlefield turn the people against the military and against the war. Galloway also adds that, while Vietnam remains a model for him in terms of military/media relations, U. S. led military operations in Grenada and Panama were disastrous in terms of the media’s ability to cover those conflicts because of military restrictions. Also, keeping the media at a greater distance from combat operations than security requires would contribute to a bitterly adversarial military-media relationship.
This, in turn, would likely hurt the war effort in the long run by inviting relentlessly negative coverage and fanning public distrust. Furthermore, the media are a fact of military operations and here to stay as well as being vital to all democratic governments seeking to discharge their duty to explain. Military control of information during war time is also a major contributing factor to propaganda, especially when the media go along with it without question.
The military recognizes the values of media and information control very well. The military often manipulates the mainstream media, by restricting or managing what information is presented and hence what the public are told. For them it is paramount to control the media. This can involve all manner of activities, from organizing media sessions and daily press briefings, or through providing managed access to war zones, to even planting stories.
Over time then, the way that the media covers conflicts degrades in quality, critique and objectiveness. As one military puts it,” Information is the currency of victory. ” From a military’s perspective, information warfare is another front on which a battle must be fought. However, as well as needing to deceive adversaries, in order to maintain public support, information to their own public must no doubt be managed as well. That makes sense from a military perspective. Sometimes the public can be willing to sacrifice detailed knowledge.
But that can also lead to unaccountability and when information that is presented has been managed, propaganda is often the result. Finally, the military have had to adapt since 1982 is the speed of reporting made possible by modern communications. Today, a reporter with a digital camera, a laptop and a satellite phone, all of which can fit in a day sack, can file stories minutes after events and even live if they have a bit more by way of equipment. Control is much more difficult if reporters don’t need military’s help to file a story.
Because they can act so quickly, and are expected to do so by their editors or newsrooms, military don’t have the time to ponder at length our response to events, we must respond quickly whilst still, crucially, maintaining accuracy. For instance, this happened on TELIC 1 (Iraq) but, it was not a great success. Conclusion Throughout history, no matter the time or war, there has always been a conflict between the military and the media. The media’s right to a free press conflicts with the military’s concern for operational security.
It serves no constructive purpose, however, to ignore this conflict nor does it serve a purpose by adding to it. Therefore, it is time for the military to accept the media as part of the battlefield of the 21st century, and to understand and prepare for the media as it does for other battlefield elements. Commanders should ensure that their troops receive not only the equipment, but also the training to survive in adverse battlefield environments. The point here is to point out that no matter whether the military likes or dislikes the media, the media will be a part of the battlefield environment just as the weather.
As is the case with inclement weather, the better the commander plans and prepares his or her troops, as well as themselves for the media, the better they and their troops will do when faced with a reporter. If we are going to get this right, the military must not resort unnecessarily to secrecy or to lightly tarring independent journalists as disloyal. The media should not frivolously cry “censorship. ” And each should work harder to understand the views and accommodate the needs of the other.