Freedom of Reporting and Security Issues (1page)
During times of crisis, governments restrict media access to information about matters that affect security policy. The logic is quite understandable: Governments believe that the war effort (or counterterrorism policy) requires limitations to be imposed to prevent information from helping the enemy and to prevent the enemy from spreading its propaganda. For example, the British Official Secrets Act was designed to manage the flow of information both from adversaries and to adversaries.
The challenge for democracies is to strike a balance between governmental control over information—for the sake of national security—and unbridled propaganda. The following examples illustrate how the United States and Great Britain managed the flow of information during international crises:
· During the Vietnam War, journalists had a great deal of latitude in the field to visit troops in the field and observe operations. Vietnam was the first “television war,” so violent and disturbing images were broadcast into American homes on a daily basis. These reports were one reason why American public opinion turned against the war effort.
· During the 1982 Falklands War, news about operations was highly controlled and censored by the British government. Press briefings were strictly controlled by the government, under the rationale that useful information could otherwise be received by the Argentines and jeopardize the war effort.
· During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, news was likewise highly controlled. Unlike during the Vietnam War, the media received their information during official military press briefings. They were not permitted to travel into the field except under highly restrictive conditions.
· During the Afghan phase of the war on terrorism in late 2001, news was highly restricted. Official press briefings were the norm, and requests were made for cooperation in not broadcasting enemy propaganda.
· During the 2003 conventional phase of the invasion of Iraq, reporters were “embedded” with military units and reported events as they unfolded. Official press briefings were the norm.
Under what circumstances should the state increase restrictions on the media? How would you justify these restrictions?
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