About a year ago a 16 point code aimed at keeping Australian journalists safe in war zones and other areas of trauma reporting was released at a war reporting conference in Sydney. Last week in Auckland several New Zealand journalists suggested it was about time a similar code was established here.
Award-winning freelancer and producer, Jon Stephenson said that he hadn’t seen any progress in New Zealand in the year since the first Red Cross-sponsored conference on war reporting in Wellington; which coincided with the 2009 Sydney event.
Stephenson made his comments during a panel discussion at a follow-up event held at AUT in Auckland on the 24th of May.
TV3’s experienced correspondent and news anchor, Mike McRoberts, agreed with Stephenson, as did TV1’s Campbell Bennett.
The keynote speaker at the AUT event was former ABC correspondent and now journalism educator Tony Maniaty. It was a great speech in which Maniaty talked about the outsourcing of danger now that most large news organisations in Australia and New Zealand no longer have fully staffed bureaux in many places and tend to only send reporters into hot spots when a story is breaking. He also noted that smaller, lighter digital cameras mean that the safety net of a larger, tightly-knit group no longer exists. Heavy gear and complex camera-audio set ups required three or four people to manage, creating camraderie and support networks:
Today, my students can – and some do – circumvent all that rigmarole by walking around the corner, buying a laptop and HD camera and a cheap air ticket to Kabul, and two days later be filming – alone, unsupported – on the frontline. And in this increasingly prevalent scenario are two more challenges facing us. One, we need to inject compulsory safety training modules into our media courses; and two, we need to address more carefully the vexed issue of freelancers, and what I call ‘the outsourcing of danger’. If networks are not prepared to send staff reporters into hot zones, do they have any right to send others there – for far lower pay, without training or insurance or training, without safety gear?
The idea of running safety training modules in J-schools is an interesting one, but what do we leave out in order to include them? We constantly come up against this “pint pot” problem; I might also add that the news industry needs to take some responsibility here (and shoulder the cost). Though I think that having some sort of safety code is not a bad idea. Read the rest of this entry »
So, the American military has what it calls “rules of engagement” when active in a combat zone.
Normally these “rules” are to protect the lives of non-combatants, but in the urban battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq there is sometimes very little difference.
At least according to the US military. But how far does the American war machine go to distinguish between friendlies and civilians and the so-called “enemy” – the Taleban in Afghanistan or “insurgents” in Iraq?
Really, it doesn’t go very far at all. In a recent Vanity Fair article about snipers in Afghanistan, one US soldier is quoted as calling the Afghan interpreter in his unit a “stinky”.
A Special Forces sergeant came up and said, “Hey, dude, I got some bad news. I gotta put a Stinky in your truck.” Afghans are Stinkies because they don’t wash.
We’ve all heard the term “raghead” used in relation to Iraqis. When this level of embedded racism is in play, the rules of engagement are not worth wiping your stinky on.
Whenever civilians are killed by “mistake” there are major efforts to cover it up. Details are only released when the families of the dead – you should always make sure there are no survivors – make a fuss, or the media starts nosing around.
But what happens when reporters and news workers are killed? Then the cover up goes into overdrive!
The Wikileaks site has just released some very disturbing video footage of two Reuters correspondents being gunned down in Baghdad. According to the army’s statement, the action that led to their murder was within the rules of engagement.
The attack took place on the morning of 12 July 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded.
It’s a Kiwi version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and really quite pathetic that the Defence Minister is upset about this image. He’s said that identifying the soldiers puts them in harm’s way. Presumably because now those pesky Taleban can put a name or a face to the troopers.
That’s just bullshit. These guys wander around Kabul in heavy body armour, armed to the teeth and ready to take potshots at anyone who looks remotely suspicious. That’s about 90 per cent of the population in the reasoning of the occupying forces.
Let’s be clear about this; these SAS troopers are in harms way because of a series of political decisions taken in Washington and Wellington. Read the rest of this entry »
Jean Seaton is Professor of Media History and the University of Westminster, but her childhood was spent in the Smithfield meat markets of London. The story of her father’s family-run butcher shop opens Carnage with a fascinating memoir of the blood and stench of a local abattoir that stands as a metaphor for modern journalism.
Seaton’s historical journey begins with childhood memories of skinning rabbits, but covers a lot of ground: from the ‘bread and circuses’ of the Roman Empire, to iconic religious art in the middle ages, to the age of terror that we now inhabit.
The central theme of Carnage revolves around our seeming fascination with violence, bloodshed, atrocity, war and crime and the ways in which the news media both nourish and condemn the audience’s taste for horror, disaster and the misfortune of others. There are well-established rituals in which both the news media and the audience participate, while constructing or watching violent events unfold within a news narrative. Over time, audiences are tutored in the appropriate responses — much like the way we used to cheer the cowboys with white hats and boo the black hats in the Saturday matinees.