CBSN

Beware Foreign Entanglements?

(Getty Images/Shaul Schwarz)
We previously told you all about the Israeli media censor and how that person exercises control over just about any war reporting from the country as a condition of operating there. We noted that CBS News operates under those rules, which pertain to reporting potentially sensitive military information obtained unilaterally – such as the location of incoming missile strikes. Today, CJRDaily's Lawrence Lanaham looks at the other side of the issue. He notes a Fox News report which relayed a Hezbollah request to U.S. media outlets not to show locations from which missiles have been launched into Israel. Both requests came from enemy combatants eager not to give their enemy important information – much the way reporters with U.S. military units are forbidden to reveal troop positions. Lanaham thinks these are decisions best made by judicious news organizations:
Seeing news organizations negotiating with foreign militaries isn't that unusual -- access always comes with a price, such as embedding -- but it does seem escalated this time. If the next conflict involves more parties, say four or five, the negotiating calculus will be even more perilous.

Ideally, editors and producers ought to put their collective foot down: ignore demands for censorship, and make circumspect, judicious decisions about battle footage on a case-by-case basis. Rockets may look cool, but there is no need to amplify the risk to reporters in an already dangerous battle zone just for higher ratings. At the same time, battle footage is necessary to portray the reality of war; the sensitive details it betrays must serve journalistic values, clarifying and giving context for viewers and readers. If, in their decisions, editors and producers independently take into account the possibility of losing official access or angering reckless militias, they can remain sensitive to troop movements and civilian safety without signing off on anyone's demands.