By Rachid Acim
By Rachid Acim
Morocco World News
Beni Mellal, Morocco, June 8, 2012
Since ancient times, many wars have broken out in different parts of the globe. Many people died as a result. Unexpectedly children returned home disabled and a state of horror plagued all genders and generations of people.
Some of these horrors began when the United States waged a war against Vietnam, supporting southern Vietnam in order to prevent the spread of communism. This continued when the United States, with the aid of allies, invaded Iraq to topple the al-Baath regime headed by the ex-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein under the pretense of ridding the country of weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan was also not safe from this military game. The conflict has bred many victims on both sides of the fighting.
But now the United States has turned into a good observer. The country acted as an observer in the Arab Spring initiated by Jasmin revolution.
The United States does not want to cause any trouble anymore. This is good.
A few years ago, the American political commentator Walter Lippmann wrote, “in times of war we must remember that what is said on the enemy’s side of the front is a mere propaganda, and that what is said on our side is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace.“
The above quote is quite significant in studies of the media. The quote alludes to one thing: the fact that the military and media are interconnected. Many media analysts still find it difficult to account for the mysteries engulfing both fields.
The role of media is quite obvious: to disseminate information to the public, to entertain children, or to convince the international community of some facts that exist only in the realm of Greek mythology.
What is the role of the military? To fight for a cause, for peace and for justice? This depends on the military’s individual ideals.
We seem every day to see a thousand pictures on TV, read thousand pages in a newspaper or another news outlet, but how often do we question ourselves: Is what we see the truth or a fallacy?
Some sort of information remains hidden to the audience, information that can tremendously influence the welfare of a whole nation. This is why many news reporters are persecuted and sometimes jailed– because they have accessed a sensitive issue or collected a serious snippet of information about the military.
The declarations made by the spokesmen of the army are not to be taken for granted. We must hear the other side and draw inferences about the eventual conflict. Who is the winner? In my view, the media!
No other group would love to see any conflict anywhere.
The media’s products are increasingly sold to a large array of consumers during wars and military conflicts, leading to large profits.
When there is no conflict, the day-to-day news is often less interesting.
While writing this article, I kept in mind the former Iraqi diplomat Saeed al-Sahhaf, who became a legend in media rhetoric. Al-Sahhaf once acted as the mouthpiece for Saddam’s regime, and he insisted on using Arabic language prior to and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
He was very funny, but extremely eloquent.
It was reported that the former United States President George W. Bush could not resist watching al-Sahhaf when he was being interviewed by local and international news correspondents.
I am not sure whether the departments of media studies in the west took his statements as a raw material for further media research. The minister of information managed to startle the world with his uncommon words borrowed from a far-fetched lexicon. He was able to use highly sophisticated dictions with which Arab speakers were less familiar. Sarcasm was at play in most of his statements.
Journalists and news correspondents had to look up many archaic uncommonly spoken words often pronounced by al-Sahhaf.
At the moment when Baghdad fell under the control of U.S. troops, people were put into a great dilemma. The American soldiers stepped into Saddam’s palaces. Yet, al-Sahhaf was saying something different. He was pointing to the invincibility and chivalry of the Iraqi soldiers portrayed by him as great.
That was a sweet daydream al-Sahhaf placed in our minds and on the ground.
That was also propaganda deployed by al-Sahhaf because he knew that information is itself an arm more destructive than modern weaponry. It is power as Foucault has mentioned.
Another question that can disturb anyone watching news about military conflicts is: to what extent are news reporters and international correspondents able to cover military conflicts impartially? Normally, as is the case with the American army, there must be some sort of coordination between reporters and soldiers.
Modern warfare necessitates an ongoing dialogue between the media and the military. War is fought not only at the front line but also at home. Many people would like to hear how the war unfolds from either side of the conflict.
If there is defeat, it’s better to go home where it is safe.
What we see or what we may hear about the military conflict can either encourage or discourage the soldiers, their families and the whole community.
The army will never display true information, give strategic plans or key ideas. If they do disclose these details they may be cleverly exploited by the other side of the conflict. This is why some military operations are led away far from the control and monitoring of the media.
For example, think of the manhunt to capture Osama Bin Laden.
Objectivity is the last thing we can think of in terms of the media. Hence, if it happens that reporters are selected to cover the battlefield, then the news that reported will often be biased. I am afraid that some journalists do not dare to criticize their governments or even the army’s mistakes in times of war.
Some killings and massacres might occur in one place and as a result the media’s focus goes to another area. This scenario explains more about the agenda of the media corporation as a whole, running the news and stories according to their worthiness and, most importantly, to the editorial opinion.
The situation may be even worse because if a journalist accesses war zones and interview experts, he might be suspected and interviewed himself. How did he manage to do that?
The correspondent of al-Jazeera Tayssir Allouni is one example of this situation.
Another issue of equal importance when talking about the media and the military is whether the reporters cover the news themselves or they hire locals and translators to aid them in gathering news. Certain places of course, can be deadly and inaccessible to those who are not familiar.
For this reason, some money can bring current news to reporters and correspondents looking for the latest information about the battlefield.
The reliability of reporters is questionable in this respect. Some reporters have deviated from the path of professionalism and objectivity since they are resolute to meet the expectations of the military.
One more question still of much significance is: Do we need to arm reporters in military conflicts to more guarantee their safety?
Of course not. Members of the media are not in the military.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy