School of Media and Communication

Phil Taylor's papers


Media Society Event 2003

With Prof Taylor as part of the panel on 'Reporting War or Just Covering It', held at the Imperial War Museum.

Below is the Guardian's coverage of the event

Warnings over 'easy' Iraq coverage

Ciar Byrne
Wednesday January 29, 2003

The former head of the UN's peacekeeping force in Bosnia has warned against too much "kiss-kiss" between the media and the military in times of conflict, ahead of the expected war in Iraq.

General Sir Michael Rose, who has voiced reservations about going to war, criticised the media for accepting what the military told them at press briefings.

"There is too often a kiss-kiss situation. Nato had far too easy a ride during Kosovo and I expect the press to be far more rigorous in covering what they see in the future," Sir Michael said.

However, he insisted the military did not spread propaganda and lies, saying: "Propaganda and lies come back to haunt you and soldiers are taught not to indulge in it or they will be caught out."

Sir Michael was speaking at a Media Society debate on the openness of war reporting, chaired by BBC world affairs editor John Simpson.

Former Nato director of information Jamie Shea, whose daily press briefings during the Kosovan conflict became famous for spin after Alastair Campbell stepped in to help the military's information effort, was also present at the debate.

Other speakers warned that reporters could be prevented from portraying a true picture of a future war with Iraq because of military secrecy and spin.

"It's going to be very difficult to cover any war in Iraq because it's going to be very short," said the Times' foreign correspondent Anthony Loyd, who covered the war in Bosnia.

"Most of the story is going to be what happens after the war, for example a civil war in Iraq, and what happens in the rest of the Middle East.

"It will be very confusing and very fast. Journalists will get no favours from the Americans and British forces there, who have honed their skills in handling the media."

Loyd claimed that journalists were being denied access because the US military believed it had lost the Vietnam war due to the freedom afforded to the media during the conflict.

"Journalists and the military live in a state of mutual suspicion," said veteran ITV reporter Michael Nicholson.

"I once had a pamphlet which said the purpose of the military is success through secrecy, while the purpose of the press is victory through publicity. The two are not compatible. That was written in 1956 for the Suez campaign and continues today.

"Journalists will do their damnedest to get to the truth and the military will do their damnedest to prevent us," he added.

Lord King, the Conservative defence secretary during the 1991 Gulf war, responded by saying secrecy was often vital to ensure military success.

The title of the debate, attended by around 300 people was: "Will the war be reported - or merely covered in a way that conceals rather than reveals the truth?",7495,884624,00.html

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