Monday, May 2, 2011

Media and the Military

by: S.A. Cruikshank

The Media and the Military

Journalists, pundits, politicians, and the public have all been talking about WikiLeaks and its impact on the news and the military. Some hail it as a way to keep the government honest, reaching a new level of transparency. Other claim it does nothing but damage national security ethics. In an article for Poynter, Steve Myers called WikiLeaks a "new type of media player." Yes, WikiLeaks is a new player on the media scene, but the debate over whether or not WikiLeaks is a miracle or menace is the same debate that has been facing journalists since the profession has existed.

National Security vs. Journalists

Journalists are constantly balancing the idea of national security or troop safety with their ability to do their jobs. How much does the public deserve to know? Sometimes that line can be blurry. The first example that comes to mind, is the embedding of reporters during war coverage. It's really the only way to get the story, but reporters give up certain rights to be embedded. Reporting on troop movements are forbidden, and there is the inevitable obligation the reporter feels toward the people keeping him or her safe. So what does a reporter tell the public if he or she witnesses troops committing a human rights violation? What if reporting on the violation puts the troops and the reporter at risk?

POW Abuse

Another example that comes to mind is the story that CBS broke concerning the abuse of Iraqi POWs by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib. CBS actually did not report the story as soon as they uncovered it, because of fears U.S. troops in Iraq could be retaliated against by insurgents. This is the same debate facing WikiLeaks. What should the website reveal, if it could possibly compromise safety? The line between the publics right to know and the publics safety is often blurry. WikiLeaks may be a new way to approach the disclosure of information, but the debate is nothing new.

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