A Harvard University report on the role of the media in last summer's Lebanon war (although dated February) has just been published. Snapped shot and Little Green Footballs offer their own commentary.
The closing passage of the report reads thus:
The Lebanon War produced a bumper crop of stories both good and bad, growing out of a new kind of asymmetrical warfare waged by a state on the one side and a religious, nationalistic guerrilla force on the other side. Will Israel seek to change the ground rules for coverage of the next war? And even if the effort were made, could it succeed?The only thing that can be virtually guaranteed, however, is that the media will not rise to the challenge. Generally, it believes it covered the war well and has nothing to learn from its own actions. And, almost certainly, in the British media, this report will never see the light of day.
In an open society, ground rules may be announced, but they are not likely to be observed or enforced. During the 2006 summertime war in the Middle East, it was Israel versus Hezbollah, led by the charismatic Hassan Nasrallah, and because Israel did not win the war, it is judged to have lost.
In Iraq, in the not too distant future, it may well be the United States versus the Mahdi Army, led by the equally charismatic Sheik Moqtada al-Sadr. The challenge for responsible journalists covering asymmetrical warfare, especially in this age of the Internet, is new, awesome and frightening.
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