The Practice and Its Impact on the Way Journalists Work
A Master Project Submitted to
the Department of Communication
for the degree of
Master of Arts in Journalism
By Akhmad Kusaeni
The Master’s Project panel of the Department of Communication, School of Social Sciences, Ateneo de Manila University, accepts the Master’s Project, “Embedded Journalism: The Practice and Its Impact on the Way Journalists Work”, submitted by Akhmad Kusaeni in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree
Master of Arts in Journalism
Glenda M. Gloria Chay F. Hofilena
Adviser Program Director
Mark Vincent Escaler
Date: October 2005
The U.S. invasion of Iraq coincided with the implementation of embedding journalism, an innovative means of wartime coverage. Responding to criticism that it did not allow journalists to contact with fighting troops during the first Gulf War (1991), the Pentagon allowed reporters to travel with the US military units as long as they followed strict rules.
About 600 reporters were placed, or embedded, in military units during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003). With the advanced communications system, Iraq war was the most covered war in history. Thank to sophisticated technology and embedding journalism that had brought the war right into people living room around the world.
Since information is the currency of victory on the battlefield, the military commanders had turned the media into a weapon of war. Winning modern war is as much dependent on carrying domestic and international public opinion as it is on defeating the enemy on the front lines. Pentagon officials praised the embedding program and said it has worked “wonderfully well” in helping win war and gaining public support.
Proven success in Iraq, embedding journalism was being used in Southeast Asian theater of war, especially in Indonesia and Philippines’ war against terrorism and separatism. Certain features of the Military Operation in Aceh, for example, seem to have been designed directly from blueprints of the U.S. attack on Iraq. With 50,000 troops on the ground to combat some 5,000 guerrillas, the offensive began in 19 May 2003 in “shock and awe” fashion, with scripted parachute drops and fighter planes screaming across the skies for the television cameras.
Going to battlefield to cover conflict was part of the daily routine of a military reporter in the region. Without using the word “embedding”, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been ferrying reporters to the font lines and controlling their movements since the 1980s. Obviously, embedding journalism is just an ordinary system of covering conflict. What is new is that the U.S. in Iraq war has institutionalized embedded journalism as a form of media system.
This story attempts to explore the practice of embedding journalism and its impact on the way journalists work in the Southeast Asia region. It will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the practice. It provides facts and experiences about how media outfits in the region struggled and tried to preserve journalistic standards.
Embedding journalism has its own critics and praises. The objectives of this story is to give emphasize on how the practice of embedding journalism has become a necessity in the age of modern technology, war against terrorism, and stiff competitions among media outfits.
In other words, although there are inherent problems and complications with the embedded system, both the military and the media see the need to live with it because their own interests. Embedding journalism seems to have been accepted by both sides, because it fulfills their utilitarian needs: first-hand information on the part of the media, and propaganda on the part of the military.
What could be expected at the end of the story is a judgment on whether the practice is good or bad for journalism, or whether there are creative middle grounds that journalists can take that will allow them to uphold the standards and ideals of journalism without being fully compromised by the military.
The Practice and Its Impact on the Way Journalists Work
There is nothing new about journalists traveling with troops and filing war stories from the battlefield. But the war with Iraq has given a new meaning to the word “embedded” – as in embedded journalists. They live in the trenches with the troops, fly sorties with pilots, hitch rides inside tanks and try gas masks on for size. They are also in harm’s way every bit as much as the soldiers themselves.
This way of reporting conflict is not new. Embedding journalism has long been a feature in Western and Asian wars. Journalists, for instance, accompanied U.S. forces ashore at Normandy in June 1944 for the final Allied assault against Nazi Germany.
In Southeast Asia, going to the battlefield to cover a conflict was part of the daily routine of a military reporter. Without using the word “embedding”, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been ferrying reporters to the battlefield and controlling their movements since the 1980s.
When Indonesia launched military operation in East Timor on 7 December 1975, a number of journalists were among the invading troops. The Armed Forces of Indonesia (TNI) gave journalists certain military ranks, such as major and captain, and even armed them with assault riffles and grenades.
In the Vietnam War (1968-1975), journalists were given unprecedented latitude in accompanying US forces into battle. Embedding in the Iraqi war (2003) was not so different from these earlier conflicts, except that journalists were tied to one unit, rather than being free to roam. 
In the Vietnam War reporters had the greatest access to information any war to date. They moved freely between centralized briefings and the battlefield, essentially embedding (though the term had not yet been invented) for a few days at a time, with whatever unit they choose.
The result, in the military’s eyes, was an unmitigated disaster. Not only did the coverage bring the horrors of war into the living rooms of Americans, but reporters also uncovered numerous discrepancies between what was said at headquarters and what happened on the ground.
Many in the military blamed the press for the loss of the war, arguing that the negative coverage undermined public support. In subsequent wars, such as Granada (1983) and Panama (1989), the military all but shut the press out. During the first Gulf War (1991), the media was forced to rely on a pool system for coverage, embedding just a small number of journalists who then filed dispatches back to the press at large – often days late. This practice led to a great deal of antagonism between the press and the military.
During preparation of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military had begun to realize that it might be advantageous to have more reporters on the ground. Those reporters could report and record the heroic effort of the U.S. troops, many of which had gone unnoticed in the first Gulf War. But, the most important thing is those reporters might counter Iraqi propaganda efforts. In addition, the advent of new technology, such as satellite and videophones, meant that reporters would likely find ways to cover conflict on their own, regardless of approval.
Responding to criticism that it did not allow journalists to contact with fighting troops, the Pentagon allowed reporters to travel with the US military units as long as they followed strict rules. About 600 reporters were placed, or embedded, in military units during Operation Iraqi Freedom. With the advanced and sophisticated communication system, Iraq war was the most covered war in history.
In democratic societies like the U.S., the relationships between the pens and the swords have developed through practice and pragmatism and through historical experience. The military and the press are two institutions that are inherently opposed to each other. The military values an organized chain of command, loyalty, sacrifice and secrecy. The press, on the other hand, stresses individualism, the questioning of authority, skepticism, openness, and a perpetual search for truth. These two different institutional outlooks create inevitable tensions between the military and the press.
In the face of political and technological developments since the 9/11 terrorist attack, the practical relationships between the media and the armed forces are changing in the fundamental way. The U.S. invasion of Iraq coincided with the implementation of embedding journalism, an innovative means of wartime coverage. Embedding journalists has brought warfare home to the public in the world as no war has been brought home before. Other countries have somehow begun institutionalizing this system in their own approach to the media war.
Basically, embedding journalism is just an ordinary system of covering conflict. What is new is that the U.S. in Iraq war has institutionalized embedded journalism as a form of media system. This practice has taken on a new face in the war on terror. As such, questions have been raised on how it is practiced and what its impact is on journalism.
This story attempts to explore the practice of the embedding journalism and its impact on the way journalists work in the Southeast Asia region. Does this system result in better reporting? What are its advantages and disadvantages?
The origin of the embedding journalism
Embedding journalism is the brainchild of Victoria Clarke, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Clarke brings considerable PR experience to the task of winning the spin war. According to a 10-page memo prepared for the National Security Council, Clarke argued that allowing journalists to report live from the front lines would give Americans the opportunity to get the story, both “good and bad”, before others seed the media with disinformation and distortions.
“It is in our interest to let people see for themselves through the news media, the lies and deceptive tactics Saddam Hussein will use,” she said.
To accomplish this, Clarke added, “We will embed media with our units. These embedded media will live, work and travel as part of the units…to facilitate maximum, in-depth coverage”.
Nearly 600 journalists were embedded in the U.S Army during Iraq war. They traveled with troops in their units, ate with them, and were billeted with them. They saw what the soldiers saw, were under fire when troops were, and endured the same hardships (combat, heat, sand storms, long days on the move). They brought live coverage of all these things through the television into the living rooms of most homes throughout the world.
The war in Iraq then became a showcase of high technology. Not only did high-tech weaponry – in the form of tanks that could race like cars across the Iraqi desert, helicopters that could fly night-time raids and “smart” bombs – shocked and awed Saddam’s army into submission. High-tech communication systems also brought the war right into people homes on a round-the-clock, minute-by-minute, real-time basis.
In Vietnam, reporters jumped aboard helicopters with a notebook, a pen, maybe a 35mm camera and maybe a small Olivetti portable typewriter, if it wasn’t left behind in a bureau or hotel, where the telephone and telex machine provided the links with the home office. During Iraq war, reporters carry a laptop computers, a satellite telephone with direct internet access and the capability to transmit photos, a digital camera, a global positioning system device, body armor, a helmet, and a chemical and biological weapons protective suit with booths, gloves, mask and filters.
“That’s not counting underwear,” said Michael Getler, ombudsman of the Washington Post on a massive, expensive, and high-tech equipment using by dozen its embedded reporters during Iraq war coverage.
In short, technology was critical part of Iraq war coverage and enabled the embedding journalism to exist in the most advanced way. Sophisticated communications systems brought the war right into people living room. Because of high-tech communication and embedding journalism, the Iraq war was the ultimate reality television show.
“The embed program has not only worked but it has worked wonderfully well,” said Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore of the US. Army.
Because “it has worked wonderfully well” in Iraq war, the embedding journalism seems to be used in Southeast Asian theater of war, especially in Indonesia and Philippines’ war against terrorism, radicalism and separatism.
Military operation in Aceh
Certain features of the military operation in Aceh, Indonesia, in May 2003 seem to have been designed directly --or at least to have been borrowed—from blueprints of the U.S. attack on Iraq. The military operation, the embedded press system, the TV coverage, and radio talk shows on this issue are photocopies of the U.S. war against Iraq.
“This is a blessing of September 11!” exclaimed Rizal Mallarangeng, the President Megawati’s top adviser, as tanks rolled across the jungle of Aceh and paratroopers blackened the sky above the enemy’s land.
With embedded media breathlessly narrating the action, the president launched the greatest display of military might the nation had seen in more than a generation, an earth-shaking blitzkrieg to crush Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) or Free Aceh Movement.
The military operation in Aceh was the largest staged by Indonesia since it seized East Timor in 1975. With 50,000 troops on the ground to combat some 5,000 guerrillas, the offensive began in 19 May 2003 in “shock and awe” fashion, with scripted parachute drops and fighter planes screaming across the skies for the television cameras. On May 20, the next day, the front pages of many Indonesian and Asian newspapers carried action shots of hundreds of Indonesian paratroopers descending on Aceh, or landing on the coast line in boats.
In keeping with the Iraq motif, the Indonesian government gussied up the military operation in Aceh with glitzy visuals, better news management, and constant praise of Bush’s global war on terrorism. If one lesson from Iraq employed in Aceh has been the use of overwhelming force to deliver ‘shock and awe’ to the enemy population, another has been effective marshalling of journalists as prominent tools in creation of this effect.
“We are blessed because the honorable Mr. Bush has now shown us how to deal with “terrorist”,” Rizal Mallarangeng said in an interview with New York Times.
The U.S. military campaign in Iraq had convinced the TNI leaders that military operation to fight terrorism made sense. “If the U.S. troops can attack a fully independent state without any sanction from the United Nations, why can’t we crush rebels in our own backyard,” said Captain Josdi Domipoli of the Indonesian Marine Battalion.
“Timing is everything. This is the right time to bring Aceh conflict to an end,” he said.
The TNI then treated the Aceh problem as a serious threat to national integration, just like the Pentagon saw Iraq as a threat to world peace and U.S. national security. Media observers have been drawing parallels between the handling of the Iraq war and Jakarta offensive on Aceh rebels.
“Yes, the TNI has learned a lesson from the Pentagon on how to handle media during the Iraq war,” admitted Army Colonel Paruntungan Girsang, Head of Internet Department of TNI Information Center.
“We are imitating how the U.S. military handles the media in Iraq. The result is very satisfying. Compared to what we did in the past, the operation in Aceh is now so open, transparent, and well-managed,” he added.
Major General Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, Chief of Information for the TNI, did not hesitate to admit that the U.S. Pacific Command sent some regulations on media handling to TNI. “It is what they used in Iraq. Of course, we have adapted them to our local environment,” he said at a press briefing in Jakarta on 20 June 2003.
Taking a cue from Pentagon relations with the media during the Iraq war, TNI has implemented the embedding journalism. TNI gave remarkable access to journalists to the battlefields with combat units in Aceh. Local reporters are given a military training course before being embedded with troops, just as reporters with U.S. troops were before the Iraq war.
Like soldiers, some 60 journalists wear bulletproof vests and helmets when they cover raid on the rebel’s camp. To provide the flow information on the ongoing operations, TNI has set up media centers at its headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta and the operation’s central command in Lhokseumawe, some 230 kilometers east of the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh. The media center in Aceh equipped with satellite communications to help the journalists send stories or broadcast news across the country.
The domestic media have been told that it was their duty as Indonesians to support the military effort. Reporters were prohibited from publishing “enemy propaganda”, such as information that improves the rebel’s image in front of the public. TNI officials have praised the policy and have promised to use the embedding journalism in military operation in the future.
“It has made the current Aceh war more transparent than any previous military operation,” said Army Colonel Paruntungan Girsang.
“The presence of the media would ensure our soldiers would not violate human rights,” added Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki, TNI spokersperson for Aceh military operation.
War in Mindanao.
The year of 2003 seems like “the right time for war”. One can clearly see the influence of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in having provided legitimacy to crack down on insurgencies. While TNI chased and wiped out Aceh rebels, almost at the same time the Philippines government attacked “terrorist cells” in the southern region of Mindanao.
17 May 2003 was the day for warmongers in the Philippines to cheer. On that day, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo --a fighting, brave and decisive President like George W Bush of the United States-- used television networks to tell the nation:
"Today, I authorized the Armed Forces of the Philippines to employ selective aerial and artillery attacks to dislodge embedded terrorist cells that have attacked helpless civilian communities and murdered scores of innocent Filipinos in Mindanao,” the President said in a 21-paragraph statement on nationwide television, hours before leaving for an eight-day state visit in the United States.
“I shall embark on a state visit to the United States tonight bearing in mind the need to bolster our strategic relationship with the United States as well as with our neighbors in the fight against terrorism as we face a new global horizon cast by post-war Iraq,” she said.
For some observers like Roberto Layson, a priest in North Cotabato, that declaration seems like a gift President Arroyo will present to US President Bush. Senator Aquilino Pimentel believed that Arroyo played up to the Americans so she could appear as the point person in the global fight against terrorism in this region.
“That’s what she’s trying to build up,” Pimentel said.
Patricio P. Diaz, a prominent columnist, said that Arroyo must have wanted to duplicate the "shock and awe" American attack in Iraq. The May 17 order of President Arroyo to the military to launch an “extraordinary punitive force” against “embedded terrorist cells” was a declaration of the all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“We have seen that terrorism strikes anywhere, anytime, from the remotest barangays in Mindanao to the capitals of the world. The world in the post-Iraq war period has achieved greater strategic stability, but this has driven militant cells to deeper desperation,” the president said.
“Our country has been under terrorist attack-sporadic, intermittent but nevertheless, deadly. Davao City has been bombed twice. Siocon and Maigo have been assaulted with impunity. Koronadal has been attacked. Filipinos have also been killed and wounded in a terrorist attack in Riyadh. We’re victims in our own land and elsewhere. We must fight back now or face greater peril in the future. All Filipinos must be vigilant wherever they are,” she said.
“This is not simply a war of guns and bullets. It’s a strategic war of will and vision,” the president added.
Former AFP chief of staff retired general Renato de Villa, whom the President appointed to coordinate the military, civic and social aspects of the punitive campaign, said that in two days, the order was “proving to be successful because there is popular support.”
Popular support is important. It will boost the morale of the AFP troops. It will put beyond doubt the legitimacy of the campaign and strengthen the government position in the present Mindanao conflict. That is why the AFP gave a red carpet for the media coverage of the “extraordinary punitive strikes” ordered by President Arroyo.
Media centers were set up in Iligan, Cotabato and Zamboanga cities. Every media briefing in Mindanao was made by Army generals just like the media center of the U.S. Central Commando in Qatar. The media, on the other hand, have treated the war against Abu Sayyaf group and MILF as exclusive entertainment, just like CNN and Fox news treated the Iraq war.
There are similarities between coverage of Iraq war and Manila’s war against terrorism in Mindanao. But, coverage of war in Mindanao is a little bit unique. Philippines journalists have been embedding both with AFP troops and with the rebels. Abu Sayyaf rebels have made money from journalists willing to pay to go to the rebel camps. They arranged interview with the rebel leaders and their hostages as well as escort the photographers and TV cameramen to the rebel training camps.
Embedding journalism as institutionalized by the Pentagon in Iraq war had become a new trend in conflict reporting. What make embedding journalism popular in recent coverage war in Iraq and elsewhere is the media ability to put the viewers on the scene in real time at any time.
“In no other war we have been able to see and hear bombs explode on a jungle at almost the same moment that these bombs fell,” wrote media observer Vincente G. Tirol.
Journalists went to the battle and reported the war live in real time 24 hours a day and seven days a week (24/7), minute-by-minute, inch-by-inch, casualty by casualty. Iraq war reporting was a stunning experience for millions worldwide. It was instantaneous bringing the sights and sounds of war instantly to the living rooms of people around the globe.
“This is not a movie you are watching, folks, this is not a training exercise. This is real war,” said the CNN reporter to make sure the viewers that this live coverage of war has become the ultimate in reality television. Thank to the sophisticated communication technology, hand-held video cameras, the miniature satellite phones, the videophones, and the concept of embedding journalism.
The real time media coverage of the unfolding war on Iraq, Aceh and Mindanao was the ultimate in reality television. People were fascinated because it looked like video games: tank moving across the desert, animated planes, and nobody seems getting hurt. Never before has the public in the world been able to witness a conflict covered from so many angles within the forces of both protagonists. War as entertainment came to the global TV screens as the ratings-hungry TV producers make money with commodification of the news.
Glenda Gloria, a journalist and co-author of the book “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao”, said that the media have reported the conflict in Mindanao as “nothing but a cockfight – who’s losing, who’s winning”. The public is given a false notion that once military “victory” is achieved, and then the war is over.
Same thing happens in Indonesia. The media, particularly television stations, tend to expose the reality of Aceh as “reality of violence”. Coverage of killings perpetrated by both conflicting parties on the battlefield continues to dominate television news. Crime and violence are the main ingredients in television programs.
In the age of cut-throat competition in business media, this “cockfighting coverage” is allotted a much bigger portion than reports on the victim or the displaced people. As much as 51.9 percent of the news analyzed by Institute for Free Flow of Information Studies (ISAI), has been centered on the players in the conflict. By contrast, only 14,2 percent of total news analyzed has been focused on the victims of the conflict.
Killings and violence continue to assume greater significance in reporting compared with the condition of the victims. Obsessed by ratings and the emphasis on infotainment, media in Indonesia seems to have failed to provide the economic or political context to help explain why there are conflicts in Aceh.
According to Sudibyo, the social functions of the press should place the media in a position where it can question the urgency of war. Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine that the media will ever be in such a position unless they adequately focus themselves on the humanitarian and human rights dimension of the war.
“This focus, alas, has been missing in the TV coverage of Aceh,” Sudibyo said.
When the military emergency status declared in 18 May 2003, the media did not question it. Even before the declaration of martial law, the media tend to help in making condition for public to accept the war as the only realistic option for Aceh. Instead of questioning the urgency of war, almost all media competed hard to report the war, which had not even started yet.
“We are hungry for a scoop. Military operation and war are great television,” admitted Raymond A. Rondonuwu, a television news producer work for RCTI TV station.
In the name of scoop and ratings, Raymond admitted that Indonesian media tend to become “cheerleader of the war” rather than “messenger of peace”.
Media researcher Daya Kishan Thussu said that good news simply does not make for compelling television, which thrives on violence, death and destruction – be that from natural (tsunami, earthquake, floods) or human causes (wars, riots, murders).
Television news requires visual impact and a dramatic story, and on this score, wars and natural disasters score more highly than peacetime events. Wars and civil conflicts are, therefore, good news for 24 hours a day and seven days a week (24/7) networks.
“Audiences turn to news channels when there is a natural or man-made crisis. Media then treated war as infotainment,” wrote Daya Kishan Thussu of Goldsmith’s College, London.
As the result of such trends, television news rarely seems to cover the root causes of conflict. It is likely that future conflicts will be framed by television news as infotainment, virtual wars, live TV and bloodless death.
Senior journalists are increasingly becoming alert to the deterioration of news reporting and the blurring lines between news and entertainment. American broadcasters like Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw often talk about “showbizification of the news”. The demand for profits has, they argue, led to more sensational news coverage in order to boost ratings. Even wars are being treated as entertainment.
If the TV stations have its own agenda (politically and economically), then the public has to put the pieces of the puzzle together and decide for themselves what is happening.
Turning media into a weapon of war
The media, in the modern era, are indisputably an instrument of war. This is because winning modern wars is as much dependent on carrying domestic and international public opinion as it is on defeating the enemy on the battlefield. According to Kenneth Payne, it remains true regardless of the aspirations of many journalists to give an impartial and balanced assessment of conflict.
The availability of instantaneous media coverage of events across the globe has brought to the fore the role media, and especially television, play in the conduct of foreign policy and military operation. ‘The CNN effect’ was a proof that 24/7 news networks set the agenda at a time of an international crisis. But, it has also been argued that powerful governments may harness the media to advance their own political interests.
All governments in all wars have used all the means at their disposal to put their own motives, decisions and actions of their military forces, in the best possible light. They have likewise used all the means at their disposal to put the motives, decisions and actions of their opponents and their opponents’ military forces in the worst possible light.
For governments at war, the media is an instrument of war or element in war that is to be controlled. Dwight D Eisenhower, supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II, famously said, “public opinion wins wars”. It is understandable that governments seek cooperation, if not outright support, from the media to legitimize military action. Their increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery ensures that the media generally support the government course of action during military operations and disseminate the official version of events
In line with tactics used in the invasion of Iraq, the TNI and the AFP seek to use news coverage to support its military mission in. The military have turned the media into a weapon of war, using the information it provides to harass and intimidate the “terrorists and separatists” while the same time to build public support.
Neither Clausewitz nor Sun Tzu (both are the famous war-strategic expert) had any advice for military commanders on how to manage the news media during the time of war. But both seem agreed that strategic information…should be denied the enemy so as to enhance an army’s ability to use deception and the element of surprise.
Modern warfare is basically a war of the words. Both sides try to win the hearts and minds of the people. In military operation in Aceh and Mindanao, for instance, the role of the superb and savvy spokespersons is very important. The TNI and AFP officers who conducted the daily press briefing at Media Center in Aceh and Mindanao all appeared to have been very carefully chosen for the job. They were always well prepared, articulate and knowledgeable.
“The job is to manage the news. Journalists should not take for granted that all the information from military spokespersons is true. Beware of the spin,” said T. Yulianti, a columnist and media observer.
The military commanders believe that the success of the embedding journalism used during military operation in Iraq is a good way to win the war of the words. From the military perspective, the benefits of embedding outweighed the costs.
The military recognized that news coverage could be used to support its operational objectives. For example, one of the objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom was to scare the enemy into submission.
“What is the better way to achieve this objective than to give Iraqis a televised view of the lines of 3rd Infantry Division tanks stretching beyond the horizon as they crossed into Iraq?,” Yulianti asked.
To achieve the same objectives, the TNI trained and deployed “embedded journalists” in Aceh. More than 60 journalists and broadcasters joined the program and were given a military training course before being embedded with combat units.
TNI spokesperson Colonel Yani Basuki said that the military operation in Aceh is a “transparent war”. Thus, the war would be conducted in a civilized war. The presence of the media would ensure the soldiers would not violate human rights.
“TNI considers the embedded press system as positive,” Yani Basuki said.
He said the military operation in Aceh is unique in that it is the first recent conflict in which the TNI’s twin obligations of informing the public and granting adequate press access were both largely satisfied. The nature of openness to media coverage and because of the presence of embedded journalists in the frontlines has made the TNI behave more professionally. Civilian casualties have been minimized and soldiers are also being disciplined.
“TNI will use this system for the future operations,” he said.
In neighboring Philippines, the AFP even embeds its troops among media organizations. Instead of “embedded journalists”, in the Philippines war on terrorism there are “embedded troops”. At least 30 soldiers from the Philippines Army, Navy and Air Force had become members of the mainstream media after they finished a 10-day journalism course.
Major Gamal Hayudini, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Civil Relations Service in Mindanao, said the soldiers have been trained on “actual radio and television reporting and they will do coverage regularly like the other mainstream media”. As quoted by the Philippines Daily Inquirer on August 13, 2004, Hayudini said that the “embedded troops” had nothing to do with spying on reporters, but “simply intensifying the AFP’s campaign against terrorism”.
Both Hayudini in the Philippines and Yani Basuki in Indonesia seem strongly to believe that media coverage wins wars. It has been proven in Iraq as the most covered war in history. News coverage of the Iraq war was unprecedented in depth and scope. Through satellite television, Iraq military leadership was able to follow the march of the US-led war machine the same as anyone else in the world.
Lucian Truscott, a military observer, said that the U.S. leveraged this coverage when it made calls to key Iraq leaders.
“Their message was simple –surrender, resistance is futile, “If you don’t believe us, just turn on your TV”,” wrote Lucian Truscott.
Believing that media coverage wins war in Operation Iraqi Freedom, it seems that both the TNI and AFP want to have their own Peter Arnett or Christiane Amanpours out there in Aceh and Mindanao. Winning the peace of the future means winning the information war.
“You don’t win unless CNN says you win,” said General Hugh Shelton of the U.S. Army on “CNN effect”. In the real times media coverage, military officials admitted, “what CNN says has great impact on a success or a failure of an military operation” 
In bed with the Army
If the military seems happy with the innovation of embedding journalism that help them to win the war, media respond it with pros and cons. In terms of objectivity and independency, the embedding journalism gets many criticisms.
Some media observers and practitioners questioned the impartiality of embedded reporting from the front lines. They have warned that the objectivity and independence of media coverage in conflict areas could be threatened should journalists be embedded with the troops.
“Journalistic ethics means both sides must be covered. News must be balanced,” said R.H. Siregar, secretary of Indonesian Press Council.
“Embedding journalism ignores the other side of the coin. It is against the principle of impartiality,” he added.
Dr. David Miller of Britain’s Stirling University, even called most of the embedding reporters in Iraq “unwitting cogs in the Pentagon propaganda machine”. But, some media organizations appreciate the military for dual protection provided by the military to the embedded journalists: safety and access.
In the history, access has traditionally been the biggest source of tension between the press and the military. “The essential argument is still about access. How much should the press be allowed to know and see of the conduct of battle?” asked Peter Andrews, a veteran military correspondent.
Christopher Paul, a researcher from Rand Corporation, said that the press’ business is news. As a result, one of the press’ primary goals for news coverage is to gain access to newsworthy information. Two other goals are to provide information to the public and to maintain journalistic standards for the quality of news, including accuracy, objectivity, and credibility.
Reporters tend to pursue “good” stories, stories that grab attention for whatever reason. They also focus on getting “scoop” or exclusives. If one news outlet consistently has good stories and no one else has them, its market shares increases, Paul said.
“To get scoop and good stories, the press need access, access and access…” he stressed.
The conduct of press-military relations during Iraq war shows that “the Pentagon has finally overcome the knee-jerk distrust of news media coverage that has influenced so much of press-military relations since Vietnam,” Paul said.
The other benefit to be an embedded reporter is safety. In general, risks to reporters under embedding journalism were comparable to the risks to the soldiers they were accompanying. The number of reporters killed during the main combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom was thirteen, four of whom were embedded reporters. Given the relative number of embedded versus unilateral reporters, according to a RAND Corporation study, embedding in Iraq was safer than reporting unilaterally, but still risky.
Embedding journalism is indeed a risky business. Embedded journalists in Aceh, for instance, have to face many challenges. Some reporters are worried that the military’s practice of embedding journalists puts them at greater risk of being targeted by rebels because the journalists may not be seen as neutral observers. Embedded journalists who travel with the troops wear special uniforms that are barely distinguishable from those worn by soldiers, further complicating the issue. GAM rebels had a list of the embedded journalists and have considered these reporters to be legitimate military target.
Some journalists were being killed or kidnapped during military campaign in Aceh. GAM rebels had taken broadcaster Ersa Siregar and cameramen Ferry Santoro of the RCTI television station as hostages on 3 June 2003. Siregar has killed in a firefight between the TNI and GAM several months later. He died with several bullet wounds, but Santoro survived in the rebel’s custody. Santoro had been released on 16 May 2004 after a year as GAM’s hostage.
Covering both sides of the story in any conflict area is inevitably a great challenge for journalists. Media outfits struggled and tried to preserve journalistic standards. In search of finding truth as closely as possible, some media outfits send two teams. One team embedded with the military, the other roving independently.
“That would be very balanced reporting,” said Nanang Sunarto, veteran war reporter of Antara, the Indonesian National News Agency.
Although embedded reporters get a close up view of operations, but as Sunarto said, that view is also somewhat narrow, producing what has been called a “soda-straw effect”. To get the whole picture, embedding journalism should continue to be supplemented by other systems of press access that provide different perspectives.
Embedding journalism has other disadvantages. There is a question of independence since the military escort journalists and ask them to be “a team” with the men and women in uniform. Censorship was obviously a big fear. The others are persuasions and intimidations. In Aceh, from the first days of the campaign, the military leaders made it clear that they would not tolerate independent reporting on the conflict.
Maj. Gen. Endang Suwarya, the military commander in Aceh, warned journalists not to report any statements issued by GAM leaders.
“I want all news published to contain the spirit of nationalism. Put the interests of the unitary state of Indonesia first,” Suwarya said.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), during the first two weeks operation, security forces in Aceh have detained, interrogated, and threatened local journalists and foreign correspondents that have reported on abuses committed by soldiers. Journalists, who investigated reports that the military executed 10 unarmed villagers in Bireun district, have come under intense pressure by military authorities in Aceh.
The military commanders also asked journalists to be as actively behind the war effort as the soldiers. The generals said that total war would require journalists’ total compliance. The press was expected to cooperate with the TNI in reporting military operation and assist the government in “resolving the Aceh problem”. As veteran war journalist Katie Adie mentioned in BBC interview in 2000, “It is really hard for you, journalists, when your own country goes to war. You need to be patriotic and take side, while journalistic duties tell you to be independent and cover both sides”.
A’an Suryana of the Jakarta Post knows exactly what Katie Adie had said. For Suryana, being a patriotic journalist is a good deed, but as reporter he has to be objective and critical. He said being patriotic maybe necessary if Indonesia had war with other countries. But, what was happening in Aceh is very different.
“We had war with our own brothers and sisters. The journalists should try to be really neutral during war in Aceh,” he added.
Media critics worry that journalists would become biased toward the troops in their assigned units. The idea of journalists allowing themselves to be taken under the wing of the military to some observers is very dangerous. Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw said that journalists who agree to go with combat units become hostages of the military.
Critics also said that the embedding journalism is anecdotal. It is like going on a road trip and calling people back home about what you have been doing on the road and telling them about the things that you have seen. The embedding journalism allows people a certain degree of “close-up” view of war as it was unfolding. It is like having a telescope and being able to watch the person in another building do stuff.
“Because you are seeing from a telescope, you could also be seeing only the ‘micro’ and missing out on the big picture,” said Arlene Burgos, correspondent Kyodo News in Manila.
“Embedding is a soda-straw journalism, because it provide only small pictures of the greater war landscape,” said Murizal Hamzah, local journalist works for Sinar Harapan evening newspaper.
Take the air strike during military operation in Aceh as monitored from the highland of Buket Hagu, Bireun, on 17 June 2003. The Commander of the Special Forces, Captain Mohammad Fajar, was very friendly and answered all questions as reporters watch the assaults on GAM stronghold near Lhok Sukon, North Aceh.
But what reporters like Aboeprijadi Santoso of Radio 68-H saw was just a small part of the action: Two F-16 jetfighters flying too high to hit any target and two OV-10 Bronco’s firing eight heavy missiles resulting in thick smokes on the other side of the hill. “A shock therapy,” said Capt. Fajar, indicating that it was part of a “shock and awe” campaign.
The one-hour air strike only hit three of the 11 targets. It had to be followed by much more as TNI units on the ground started to sweep the area where GAM rebels and villagers were presumed to have built some 5 kilometer-long base camps. So this must have been a big operation, yet little was known about it. The bigger and most crucial operations are not accessible for the media.
Some believe that embedding journalism can lead reporters to lose their objectivity because they identify too closely with soldiers with whom they are embedded. Embedding means living, eating, moving in combat with the troops, and seeing what they see. It seems like it is putting the press in the position of having to be on the side of the military.
“It is not embedded, it is in bed with army,” said Nini Cabaero of Cebu’s Sun Star Daily.
In Cabaero’s opinion, the press and the military in the same bed will always be strange. She said good journalism requires that the press be independent and military should be able to perform its mandate in spite of media.
American veteran reporter Michael Ryan said that embedding is not journalism.
“When you’re part of the team, you’re no longer objective,” he said.
A’an Suryana of the Jakarta Post said that embedding journalism is a bad precedent. “This is a military’s way to win the press favor. But, the journalists have to join it anyway, otherwise they do not have access to what is going on in the battlefield,” he stated.
But, some believe that the embedding journalism is a win-win solution for the press and the military. Journalists, who want access more than anything else, were given remarkable access. The military, who want to win the hearts and minds of the people, got much more favorable coverage than they would have had had there not been embedding. And the public saw a type of picture that they had never seen before. With the embedding journalism, the military operation in Aceh and Mindanao seems like “a war made for TV”.
In search for better journalism
In democratic societies like the U.S., the relationships between the pens and the swords have developed through practice and pragmatism and through historical experience. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution says one of its purposes is to “provide for the common defense”. Its First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. Those goals are not absolutely contradictory, but there are times –especially times of war—when they tug in opposite directions.
The military and the press are two institutions that are inherently opposed to each other.
“The media are from Mercury, the military from Mars”,” said media expert James adding that the messenger and the warrior are coming at issues from diametrically opposed directions.
Media outlets entice people who are comfortable questioning authority precisely because they see their role as speaking truth to power. Journalist is a profession of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable”. Journalists view their role as protecting the underdogs of society and serving as watchdogs of the most powerful institutions such as the government and the military.
On the opposite side, the military tries to attract and indoctrinate those who naturally respect authority because the battlefield brooks neither dissent nor questioning of orders. Given the tremendous risks in lives and even national survival inherent in the profession of arms, the military are conservative by nature.
In the face of political and technological developments since the 9/11 terrorist attack, the practical relationships between the media and the armed forces are changing in the fundamental way. Any absolute position on both sides is, and always has been, unrealistic. Military attempts to claim that media coverage is in all cases a form of spying for the enemy are as ridiculous, and as politically naive and ineffective, as media claims that they have an absolute right to unlimited access, and to report whatever they wish.
“Between these two extreme positions lies the real world in which military relations with the media actually take place,” wrote Stephen Badsey, editor of the bestseller “The Media and International Security”.
Thus, the question is not whether either the media or the military are completely satisfied. Instead, the issue is whether the healthy yet balanced tension that should exist between those institutions in a free society has been achieved.
The most challenging aspect of any discussion of the present and continuing relationship between the media and the military is the implementation of “embedding journalism” in the war against terrorism and separatism. Ina Mariani Suparto, professor in media studies from University of Indonesia, stated that institutionalization of embedding journalism should be viewed as effort to find better journalism in the time of war.
“The relation between press and military is not always easy. Both institutions need to find solution for their own interests,” she said.
Dwight D. Eisenhower told American reporters in 1944 that the first essential in military operation is that no information of value shall be given to the enemy. The first essential in newspaper work and broadcasting is wide-open publicity.
“It is your job and mine to try to reconcile those sometimes diverse considerations,” the general added.
John Hughes, a former editor of the Christian Science Monitor, seems to agree with Eisenhower. He said that reconciling these conflicting agendas is part of democracy. But the tug continues between journalists who push for total disclosure, and the military that reserve the right to determine what the public can, and cannot, know.
In the age of war against terrorism, news organizations are now facing one of their most crucial responsibilities in a democracy. They have to cover the nation at war. As in the past, the needs of the military and the press will sometimes be in conflict. The press wants to get as close to the action as possible, chronicling both victories and setbacks, and painting a picture of war as stark and ugly as it sometimes can be. The military, for security reasons, seeks to cast a veil over ongoing operations, but also wants to shape press coverage of the war in a favorable light.
The relationship between journalists and the military has changed along the history. What lesson can be learned from the history is that reporting war requires a degree of cooperation from the military. The press will always find ways to cover the story.
“If the military restricts coverage, reporters will find other sources and other ways to cover the war, as they should,” Michael Getler of The Washington Post argued.
He said the public’s best interest are served by an enlightened relationship between the military and media, when both sides make an honest stab at solving some of the problems that naturally arise in a way that does not interfere with the military operations and security, but allows an independent account of nation at war to be recorded.
The tension between the military and the press will never cease. Because both need each other, but cannot grant the other what it really wants. Absolute freedom to print or broadcast everything is not possible in wartime, nor is it possible in a democracy to turn the media into organs of state propaganda.
Basically, the military authorities have three concerns. They do not want journalists reporting information that could alert the enemy and get soldiers killed. They do not want to lose public support for the war. And, they also do not want their own mistakes and incompetence exposed. War correspondents usually accept and respect the first two concerns, but utterly reject the last.
Karen Dunlap of Poynter Institute explained it this way: “The troops have their role. So do those who report with words and visuals. The nation wouldn’t be strong without solid military. And it wouldn’t thrive without vigorous, ethical, courageous news media”.
Most in the press realize that part of the bargain for the access that embedding affords is that they cede a degree of control to the military. Nevertheless, embedding can be an important component of coverage.
Of course, there is no perfect world with the embedded press system. But, news organizations need to have reporters in the front lines.
“Even if we never get a story out of an embed, you need someone there to watch the missiles fly and the planes taking off. It’s great television”, said one producer of Fox News.
So the question here is not “good or bad journalism”, but the practice of the embedding journalism has become a necessity in the age of modern technology, given geopolitical interest to fight terrorism and stiff competition among media outfits. Chay Hofilena, a media expert from Ateneo de Manila University, stated “both the military and the media see the need to live with it because of their own interest”.
One of the beauties of being embedded is learning about the personality of the unit, about the color and the depth, the substance that people don’t normally get if they are not associated with a unit in that way. Yes, it is a type of coverage that’s looking through a soda straw at particular point in time on the battlefield.
It would not have been sufficient if it had been the only opportunity for press coverage in the war. But it is not. Embedding journalism is not the only element of reporting conflict. Take a look at Iraq war case. There were 600 embedded journalists in Iraq. At the same time, there were also around 1.500 unilateral or independent journalists that have endeavored to balance and to provide the accurate picture of war.
This is the story that I really want to write for some reasons. Embedding journalism touches my personal life as a reporter, a trainer in media issues, and secretary general of Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) Jakarta Branch. As a reporter, trainer and activist of PWI Jakarta Branch, I was often invited to give lectures on the contemporary media issues, including a healthy media-military relation and embedding journalism.
On 1-15 July 2005, for example, I was the main instructor of workshop organized by the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) for around 30 officers of its public affairs staffs. I had to train the would-be military spokespersons on topics ranging from “How to be savvy in military pubic relations” to “The role of the media in the military operations”.
For that reasons, I was grateful to work on the topic of “Embedded Journalism” for my Master Project.
With the Master Project like this, I was able to study, to do research, and to explore further how the embedding media system has been practiced in Iraq war and has inspired the military leaders in Southeast Asia to use it in the region. The result of my study and research (both the theory and its practice) on embedding journalism has enriched this story and my presentation paper for the workshop as well.
Traditionally, I am a supporter of my government. As a reporter working for Antara, the Indonesian National News Agency (read: the official news agency of this country and funded by the state), I was expected to be the megaphone of my government. As secretary general of PWI Jakarta Branch, I was also supposed to support the military operation in Aceh. Article in PWI Charter said, “For Indonesian Journalists Association, the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia is final”. It means that for PWI (also for TNI), there is no place for separatism. No place for the Free Aceh Movement or GAM!
It is understandable that my advisers –Glenda Gloria, Chay Hofilena and Mark Escaler- criticize my outline and story thread as “the military heavy”. At the beginning, telling the truth, I intended to find out the solution for the tug of war between the media and the military. The pens and the swords are two institutions that are inherently opposed to each other. The media are from Mercury, the military from Mars. As I see it, the embedding journalism is the win-win solution.
But the point, as my adviser Chay Hofilena suggests, is not the search for better relations between the media and the military, “but better journalism at a time of war”. Chay would like to read about how media outfits struggled and tried to preserve journalistic standards. “I expect to hear more voices from practicing journalists in the battlefield and their editors,” she wrote me.
Suddenly, I have to admit that I was wrong. As a student pursuing Master of Arts in Journalism, my business is to promote “good journalism” and not “good relationships”. The objective of this project is to ensure better journalism and not better media-military relations. Glenda Gloria is also right when she underlines that “the paper is not designed to propose measures on how to improve media-military relations but how to improve conflict reporting given by the embedded system”.
I am glad that Glenda does understand where I am coming from. As an “official news agency” reporter, I have to be supportive to the government and to believe that “right or wrong is my country”. What I need in doing the project is to change my traditional mindset and frame of thinking. Now, I feel like a newly born reporter. It is like a brand new day in my professional life. I have been exposed to the new paradigm of journalism. Thank to the Konrad Adenaur Stiftung and Ateneo de Manila University to make this happen.
Here with some new paradigms of journalism I have found during my work on the project.
1. Journalists work in concert with, but independent of government/military officials.
Kovach and Rosenstiel in “The Elements of Journalism” pointed that journalists must maintain an independence from those they cover. But in the case of covering conflict with the concept of embedding journalism, these very elements of journalism are not so easy to be practiced. Most of reporters covering military operation in Aceh caught up in the tangle of loyalty, patriotism or the temptation to sort out the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys”.
Kate Adie, the chief news correspondent of the BBC, stated that if your country is involved, the demands of patriotism should never be underestimated. It will influence arguments about objectivity and the truth.
If your nation’s survival is threatened by “terrorists”; if its territorial integrity is at stake by “separatist movements” like GAM or MILF rebels, then the journalistic principles of the whole truth, the factual information, begins to be questioned by the governments, by the military officials, by the editors, and by the fellow citizens.
The journalists who risk their lives and hazard their safety and the reporters who insist telling everything ‘as it is’, can expect a quick and hard reaction from their fellow editors.
“Keep in mind, you are Antara’s reporter. Antara is the voice of Indonesia, and not the voice of GAM. We are at war. You should not help the enemy to win (the heart and mind of the people)” warned an editor for not publishing statements of the GAM’s leaders.
This is just one example as far as my experiences in my news organization concern. The bottom line is that the principles of journalism are put to a severe test when your nation goes to war. But even in Antara, which is supposed to be a cheerleader of the government, there are some elements; most of them are young reporters and editors, who want the principles of journalism being practiced in any circumstances. They believe that journalists may work in concert with, but independent of government/military officials. They may be embedded in the military units, but journalists should serve democracy by contributing to a free and responsible news report.
2. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth and its first loyalty is to citizen.
Truth is the most confusing principle in journalism. Everyone agrees journalists must tell the truth. Yet people are befuddled about what “the truth” means. In reporting conflict such as in Aceh and Mindanao, for instance, to whom are you true? To the principles of abstract truth, to a frightened or perhaps belligerent population, to the decisions of the elected representatives in a democracy, or to the young men and women who have agreed to put their lives at risk on the front-line and to whom you are embed with? That was difficult questions to answer.
Some embedding journalists who became my sources on this project said that they face some ethical dilemmas. If journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, will you tell everything like a good journalist and help the enemy win? Will you be honest and then expose their nation’s weaknesses and invite attack?
Most of my sources agree that they will not report anything that might compromise the troops in the field. But, they also do not want to be the mouthpiece of the government or military. Since they know for sure that “the first casualty of war is truth”, they are fully aware of the spin and propaganda. They always try to ask tough questions to hold the government and the military accountable to the public. They believe that journalists serve as watchdogs for society and not megaphone of the rich and the powerful. They also understand completely the importance of “getting the facts right” and of pursuing the truth as close as possible.
There is a lot of criticism that the embedded journalists are in bed with their unit. Of course, when you report from military unit consistently, you are sharing their daily life. There will be an emotional connection and attachment that comes with it. But it does not mean you are going to hide things that are embarrassing or negative, not if you are a good reporter. Journalists should not make friends and enemies. That is the principle of journalism -- impartiality.
3. No great story worth dying for.
Journalists are owed protection in wartime. The battlefields –let say in Iraq, Aceh, Mindanao—has proved to be most dangerous places for journalists. The disturbing death toll of reporters in the battlefields has raised critical issues about how journalists are to be treated in times of war when their determination to report the news puts them squarely in harm’s way.
The Geneva Conventions, ratified in 1949, specifically address the protection of journalists accompanying military forces. It stated that if captured they must be treated as prisoners of war. According to Joel Simon, the acting director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the 1949 rules described the reality of war coverage in the aftermath of World War II, a war in which journalists covering U.S. forces wore uniforms and sometimes even carried weapons.
Twenty years later, war and the way it was covered had changed dramatically. U.S. journalists covering the Vietnam War did so mostly as civilians. They reported on U.S. activities, but also visited villages to write about the war’s impact.
In 1977, new language was added to the Geneva Conventions describing this new reality. It noted that “journalists engaged in a professional mission in the areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians” as long as they take no action to compromise this status, such a wearing a military uniform. Military forces cannot deliberately target civilians during war.
The Geneva Conventions are binding on the practice of embedding journalism. They are clear: journalists embedded with military forces cannot expect to be spared in combat, but they are entitled to prisoner of war status if captured. Journalists who are not embedded are civilians and cannot be deliberately targeted.
History tells us that the warring parties have tolerated the presence of journalists on the battlefield because they believe they can use the press for their own political advantage. Wits, experience, and training can help a journalist stay alive in battle zone. No great story worth dying for, indeed. But they are really only safe to the extent that at least one side in the battle finds their presence useful.
The concept of embedding journalism ensures reporter safety. In general, risks to reporters under an embedded press system were comparable to the risks to the soldiers they were accompanying. The number of reporters killed during the main combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom was thirteen, four of whom were embedded reporters. Given the relative number of embedded versus unilateral reporters, embedding in Iraq was safer than reporting unilaterally.
4. Soda straw journalism.
Journalists say we ‘cover’ wars. According to Kate Adie, that is a peculiar phrase since the last thing you ever achieve is any kind of comprehensive ‘covering’ of a war situation. Instead, you get a sliver, a splinter of the action, a snapshot of the activity, and a little feel for what is going on. So, the phrase ‘to cover a war’ is a probably one of the most misleading phrases used in journalism.
“You never cover comprehensively,” Kate Adie said.
Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism said moving vignettes and lives reports of the firefights and artillery bursts paint an incomplete picture.
“The reporters are giving us wonderful texture, but they are part of an elephant: Add them up together, and they don’t give you a lot of scope,” Rosenstiel said. “If they were all we had, they would be misleading. I’m still a fan, but their value has real limits.”
Although embedded reporters get a close-up view of the military operations, that view is also somewhat narrow, producing what has been called “a soda straw journalism”. In watching live coverage, for example, viewers must keep in mind that embedded reporters can show only “one slice” of the picture. To get a fuller look, the news outlets must weigh information from daily briefing from the military spokespersons or verification from the –let say- rebels.
Perhaps, as Deborah Potter of NewsLab pointed out at American Journalism Review, the lasting lesson for the news outlets will not be that reporters can take viewers anywhere, live. It may be that viewers who really want to be informed need to sample more sources and draw their own conclusions.
The public should have access to the comprehensive views provided by many “soda straws”. Editors and producers can help to ensure that these views are synthesized into easily digestible report. In addition, embedding should continue to be supplemented by other systems of press access that provide different perspectives.
Appendix 1: List of Interviews
Ahmad Yani Basuki
13 June 2005
Army Colonel Paruntungan Girsang
Head of Internet Department of TNI
22 June 2005
28 June 2005
Raymond Arian Rondonuwu
Producer work for RCTI TV station
23 June 2005
RCTI TV station office, Jakarta
Veteran war reporter of Antara
30 May 2005
Antara News Agency office, Jakarta
Reporter of the Jakarta Post daily
16 June 2005
The Jakarta Post office, Jakarta
Correspondent Sinar Harapan daily in Aceh
28 May 2005
Sinar Harapan daily office, Jakarta
Correspondent Kyodo News in Manila
25 May 2005
Kyodo News office,
Reporter of the Sun Star daily, Philippines
26 May 2005
The Sun Star Daily,
Chay F. Hofilena
Media expert of Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines
Department of Communication Ateneo de Manila University
Discussion during consultation of Master Project
Editor in Chief
Department of Communication
Ateneo de Manila University
Discussion during consultation of Master Project
Secretary of Indonesian Press Council
27 June 2005
Indonesian Press Council office, Jakarta
Media observer and columnist
26 June 2005
AMC office, Jakarta
Ina Mariani Suparto
Professor on media studies University of Indonesia
20 June 2005
PWI Jakarta Branch office, Jakarta
Correspondent Inter Press Service (IPS) in Indonesia
13 June 2005
PR Society of Indonesia office, Jakarta
Providing author with IPS report on Aceh
Appendix 2:Transcription of Interviews
Name of Interviwee : Army Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki.
Position : TNI spokersperson for Aceh military operation.
Date/Venue : 13 June 2005 at TNI Headquarters, Cilangkap, East Jakarta.
Question: TNI has implemented the embedding journalism in Aceh. Could you please tell me the benefits of having reporters with the units in the battlefield?
Answer: The presence of the media would ensure our soldiers would not violate human right. The military operation in Aceh is a “transparent war”. Thus, the war would be conducted in a civilized war.
Question: If you do an evaluation on how embedding system have been practiced in Aceh, what will you say? It is good, bad or ugly?
Answer: We must say it is good. TNI considers the embedded press system as positive.
Question: Why you say it is good, positive?
Answer: The military operation in Aceh is unique. It is the first recent conflict in which the TNI’s twin obligations of informing the public and granting adequate press access were both largely satisfied. The nature of openness to media coverage and because of the presence of embedded journalists in the frontlines has made the TNI behave more professionally. Civilian casualties have been minimized and soldiers are also being disciplined. That’s why we consider the embedding system is good and positive.
Question: And that’s why you will use this system in the future?
Answer: Yes, we will use this system for the future operations.
Name of Interviewee : Army Colonel Paruntungan Girsang.
Position : Head of Internet Department of TNI Information Center.
Date/Venue : 22 June 2005 at TNI Headquarters, Cilangkap, East Jakarta.
Question: Media observers have been drawing parallels between the handling of the Iraq war and Jakarta’ offensive on Aceh rebels. Do you copy the concept of the embedding journalism in Iraq war?
Answer: Yes, the TNI has learned a lesson from the Pentagon on how to handle media during the Iraq war. We are imitating how the U.S. military handles the media in Iraq. TNI gave remarkable access to journalists to the battlefields with combat units. The reporters are given a military training course before being embedded with troops, just as reporters with U.S. troops were before the Iraq war.
Question: How is the result?
Answer: The result is very satisfying. It has made the current Aceh war more transparent than any previous military operation. Compared to what we did in the past, the operation in Aceh is so open, transparent, and well-managed.
Question: If the result is satisfying, does it mean TNI will use the embedding concept for future operation?
Answer: Sure, we will. TNI officials have praised the policy and they have promised to use the embedding journalism in military operation in the future.
Name of Interviewee : Marine Captain Josdi Domipoli.
Position : Member of Indonesian Marine Battalion
Date/Venue : 28 June 2005 at TNI Headquarters, Cilangkap, East Jakarta.
Question: It seems the Indonesian military has learned a lesson from the Pentagon. Do you think so?
Answer: Yes, I think so. The U.S. military campaign in Iraq had convinced the TNI leaders that military operation to fight terrorism made sense. They think that if the U.S. troops can attack a fully independent state without any sanction from the United Nations, why can’t we crush rebels in our own backyard.
Question: Do you think that TNI uses Iraq war momentum to launch a military strike to crush Aceh rebels?
Answer: I think timing is everything. This is the right time to bring Aceh conflict to an end.
Name of Interviewee : Raymond A Rondonuwu
Position : A television news producer work for RCTI TV station.
Date/Venue : 23 June 2005 at RCTI TV station office, Jakarta.
Question: May I have your comments on how media cover and report Aceh conflict?
Answer: In my personal opinion, Indonesian media tend to become “cheerleader of the war” rather than “messenger of peace”.
Question: Why you say so?
Answer: We are hungry for a scoop. Military operation and war are great television. In the name of scoop and ratings, we want the war; we support the war to happen.
Question: Could you elaborate this statement with giving me examples?
Answer: When the military emergency status declared in 18 May 2003, the media did not question it. Even before the declaration of martial law, the media tend to help in making condition for public to accept the war as the only realistic option for Aceh. Instead of questioning the urgency of war, almost all media competed hard to report the war, which had not even started yet.
Name of Interviewee : Nanang Sunarto
Position : Veteran war reporter of Antara News Agency.
Date/Venue : 30 May 2005 at Antara News Agency office, Jakarta.
Question: Can you share with me about your experiences as an embedding journalist in Aceh?
Answer: Covering both sides of the story in any conflict area such as Aceh is inevitably a great challenge for me. We struggled and tried to preserve journalistic standards in any circumstances.
Question: What is your news organization doing to preserve journalistic standards in covering conflict?
Answer: In search of finding truth as closely as possible, we send two teams. One team embedded with the military, the other roving independently. It would make it very balanced reporting.
Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages to be an embedding journalist?
Answer: Although we get a close up view of operations, that view is also somewhat narrow, producing what has been called a “soda-straw effect”. To get the whole picture, embedding journalism should continue to be supplemented by other systems of press access that provide different perspectives.
Name of Interviewee : A’an Suryana.
Position : Reporter of the Jakarta Post daily.
Date/Venue : 16 June 2005 at the Jakarta Post daily office, Jakarta.
Question: What is your opinion on patriotic journalism, as the TNI required you to do that?
Answer: You know, being a patriotic journalist is a good deed, but as reporter you has to be objective and critical. I do agree that being patriotic maybe necessary if Indonesia had war with other countries. But, what was happening in Aceh is very different. We had war with our own brothers and sisters. The journalists should try to be really neutral during war in Aceh.
Question: What is your comment on embedding journalism?
Answer: I think embedding journalism is a bad precedent. This is a military’s way to win the press favor. But, the journalists have to join it anyway; otherwise they do not have access to what is going on in the battlefield.
Name of Interviewee: Murizal Hamzah.
Position : Correspondent of Sinar Harapan daily in Aceh.
Date/Venue : 28 May 2005 at Sinar Harapan daily office, Jakarta.
Question: What do you think of embedding journalism?
Answer: Embedding is a soda-straw journalism, because it provide only small pictures of the greater war landscape.
Question: Give me an example.
Answer: Take the air strike during military operation in Aceh as monitored from the highland of Buket Hagu, Bireun, on 17 June 2003. We saw just a small part of the action. This must have been a big operation, yet little was known about it. The bigger and most crucial operations are not accessible for the media.
Name of Interviewee : Arlene Burgos.
Position : Correspondent of Kyodo News in Manila, Philippines.
Date/Venue : 25 May 2005, E-mail interview
Question: What is your opinion on embedding journalism?
Answer: Embedding journalism is anecdotal. It is like we are going on a road trip and calling people back home about what you have been doing on the road and telling them about the things that you have seen. I saw a lot of good work from their end. I mean compelling works which really attempted to enlighten the public and not just to dish out to them some irrelevant stuff like what soldiers’ arms were or what they are eating. But, I think the system has that inherent flaw to it which was its “road trip” quality to it.
Question: Despite these disadvantages, do you see some advantages of embedding journalism?
Answer: The embedding journalism allows people a certain degree of “close-up” view of war as it was unfolding. It is like having a telescope and being able to watch the person in another building do stuff. Because you are seeing from a telescope, you could also be seeing only the ‘micro’ and missing out on the big picture. Unless he/she is really able to interview or quote someone in authority who will tell the people what the movements mean and how it impacts on the war, the embeds’ report is in danger of being just situational or anecdotal.
Question: Is it true that the embedding journalism become a new benchmark of press military relations? Is it a win-win solution for both institutions?
Answer: I think you say benchmark because it’s a new thing and because it could be a new way thing of doing things. Yes, somehow I feel that this is a milestone in terms of the press-military closeness. After all, there is such a thing as being war brothers or something.
I’ve always wondered why soldiers would always ask each other if they’ve done this or that tour of duty and end up talking like old buddies after finding out that they did. Someone said it’s because there is a certain kind of bond formed there and that bond formed there and that bond could not be duplicated elsewhere, so the people who share a common experience during a particular war have something special between them.
I think this is the same way for the embedding journalists. The embed system is a kind of a bond-forming thing.
Name of Interviewee : Nini Cabaero.
Position : Reporter of Sun Star Daily, Philippines.
Date/Venue : 26 May 2005, E-mail interview.
Question: Tell me your opinion on embedding journalism. What are advantages and disadvantages?
Answer: Embedding journalism can lead reporters to lose their objectivity because they identify too closely with soldiers with whom they are embedded. Embedding means living, eating, moving in combat with the troops, and seeing what they see. It seems like it is putting the press in the position of having to be on the side of the military. It is not embedded; it is in bed with army.
Question: People say media and military are the strange bedfellows. They need each other, but they also hate each other. What would you say?
Answer: The press and the military in the same bed will always be strange. I think a good journalism requires that the press be independent and military should be able to perform its mandate in spite of media.
Name of Interviewee : R.H. Siregar.
Position : Secretary of Indonesian Press Council.
Date/Venue : 27 June 2005 at Indonesian Press Council office, Jakarta.
Question: From ethical perspectives, what are your comments on the Aceh military operation coverage?
Answer: Some media observers have questioned the impartiality of embedded reporting from the front lines. They have warned that the objectivity and independence of media coverage in conflict areas could be threatened should journalists be embedded with the troops. Journalistic ethics means both sides must be covered. News must be balanced. Embedding journalism ignores the other side of the coin. It is against the principle of impartiality.
Name of Interviewee : T. Yulianti.
Position : A columnist and media observer.
Date/Venue : 26 June 2005 at AMC office, Jakarta.
Question: What is your comment on media coverage of Aceh military operation?
Answer: In Aceh military operation, the role of the superb and savvy spokespersons is very important, because you also need to win the heart and mind of the people. Colonel Yani Basuki, the officer who conducted the daily press briefing at Media Center in Aceh, appeared to have been very carefully chosen for the job. He is always well prepared, articulate and knowledgeable.
Question: He is doing PR and propaganda as well.
Answer: Yes, Colonel Yani’s job is to manage the news. You, journalists, should not take for granted that all the information from military spokespersons is true. Beware of the spin.
Question: In your opinion, during military operation in Aceh, did the TNI use media as a weapon of war?
Answer: My answer is yes. The TNI recognized that news coverage could be used to support its operational objectives as the Pentagon did in Iraq war. For example, one of the objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom was to scare the enemy into submission. What is the better way to achieve this objective than to give Iraqis a televised view of the lines of 3rd Infantry Division tanks stretching beyond the horizon as they crossed into Iraq?
Name of Interviewee : Ina Mariani Suparto.
Position : Professor in media studies from University of Indonesia.
Date/Venue : 20 June 2005 at PWI Jakarta Branch office, Jakarta.
Question: What your comments on media-military relations in conjunction with embedding journalism system?
Answer: I think the institutionalization of embedding journalism should be viewed as effort to find better journalism in the time of war. As you may aware, relation between press and military is not always easy. Both institutions need to find solution for their own interests, and embedding journalism is one option.
Adie, Kate. Reporting War: Dispatches from the Front. London: BBC, 2001.
Badsey, Stephen. The Media and International Security. The Sandhurst Conference Series, 2000.
Braid, Florangel Rosario, and Tuazon, Ramon. Media as a Battlefield: Coverage of the War in Iraq. Manila: PCCF and AIJC, 2003.
Kamah, M.S. From One Battle to Another, Jakarta: Antara News Agency, 1995.
Kovach, Bill, and Rosenstiel, Tom. The Elements of Journalism, What Newspeople Should Know and The Public Should Expect. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001.
Paul, Christopher. Reporters on the Battlefield: The Embedded Press System in Historical Context. Washington D.C.: Rand Corporation, 2003.
Strobel, Warren P. Late-Breaking Foreign Policy: The News Media’s Influence on Peace Operation, Washington D.C.: Institute of Peace Press, 1997.
Thussu, Daya Kishan. War and Media: Reporting Conflict 24/7. London: Sage, 2003.
Vitug, Marites Danguilan, and Gloria, Glenda M. Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao. Manila: Institute for Popular Democracy, 2000.
Clarke, Victoria. Pentagon and Press. Columbia Journalism Review, 2003.
Berkowitz, Bill. Embedded, Enthusiastic and Un-encumbered by Truth. Working for Change, 2003.
Brien, Morgan O. Public Opinion Wins Wars. Homeland Defense Journal, January 2004.
Bushell, Andrew, and Cunningham, Brent. Being There. Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 2003.
Diaz, Patricio P. This is Madness. MindaNews, 17 May 2003.
Getler, Michael. Reports From the Embedded. The Washington Post, 2 March 2003.
Getler, Michael. Challenges: The Press and the Pentagon. New York: Columbia School of Journalism, 2003.
Hughes, John. War Within a War: The Press and the Pentagon. The Christian Science Monitor, 18 December 2002.
Johnson, Peter. Reporters Go Along with Military. USA TODAY, 25 March 2003
Mariantes, Liz. The Other Boots on the Ground: Embedded Press. The Christian Science Monitor, 23 April 2003 edition.
MindaNews report on 17 May 2003.
National Journalists Union of the Philippines (NJUP) report, 2003.
Neuman, A Lin. Report on the Media and the Military Aceh. Committee to Protect Journalists, 16 July 2003.
Payne, Kenneth. The Media as an Instrument of War. New York: Parameters, Spring 2005.
Potter, Deborah. Impressive but Incomplete: TV Networks Struggled to Find a Balance in War Coverage. American Journalism Review, May 2003.
Shacochis, Bob. Pens and Swords. Cambridge: Harvard International Review, Winter 2000
Simon, Joel. Journalists Are Owed Protection in Wartime. New York: Newsday, 31 March 2003.
Sudibyo, Agus. Conflict in Aceh and Agenda Setting by TV. The Jakarta Post, 2003.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report on Journalists Attacked by Gunmen in Aceh, 29 May 2003.
The Jakarta Post, 30 June 2003.
Tiwari, Pranjal. All In The Timing. Znet, 27 May 2003.
Truscott, Lucian. Using the News as a Weapon. The New York Times, 25 March 2003.
Yamin, Kafil. Jakarta Offensive in Aceh Drags On. Inter Press Service, 30 May 2003.
Dunlap, Karen. The Troops and the Media. http://www.poynter.org/. Accessed on 8 April 2003.
Ireland, Doug. TV Warfare. http://www.tompaine.com/. Accessed on 31 March 2003.
Kitfield, James. The Pen and the Sword. http://www.govexec.com/. Accessed on 1 April 2000.
 “Embedded” is the top word of 2003. Beating out such other words as “Blog” and “SARS”, the word was picked from the war in Iraq (see the U.S. website http://www.yourdictionary.com)
 M.S. Kamah. From One Battle to Another. Jakarta: Antara News Agency, 1995.
 Kenneth Payne. The Media as Instrument of War. Parameter Journal, Spring 2005.
 Liz Mariantes. The Other Boots on the Ground: Embedded Press. The Christian Science Monitor, 23 April 2003 edition.
 Warren P. Strobel. Late-Breaking Foreign Policy: The News Media’s Influence on Peace Operation. Institute of Peace Press, 1997.
 Bill Berkowitz. Embedded, Enthusiastic and Un-encumbered by Truth. Working for Change, 2003.
 Ibarra C. Gutierez, The War in Iraq: A Showcase of Technology. Manila: PCCF and AIJC, 2003.
 Michael Getler. Reports From the Embedded. The Washington Post, 2 March 2003.
 Morgan O Brien. Public Opinion Wins War. Homeland Defense, January 2004.
 Kafil Yamin, Jakarta Offensive in Aceh Drags Oon. Inter Press Service, 2003.
 Pranjal Tiwari. All In The Timing. Znet, 27 May 2003.
 Captain Josdi Domipoli, interview with author at TNI Headquarters, Cilangkap, East Jakarta on 28 June 2005.
 A Lin Neuman. Report on the Media and the Military Aceh. Committee to Protect Journalists, 16 July 2003.
 Army Colonel Paruntungan Girsang, interview with author at TNI Headquarter, Cilangkap, East Jakarta on 22 June 2005.
 MindaNews report on 17 May 2003.
 Patricio P. Diaz. This is Madness. MindaNews, 17 May 2003.
 Florangel Rosario-Braid and Ramon R. Tuazon (editor). Media as a Battlefield: Coverage of the War in Iraq. Manila: PCCF and AIJC, 2003.
 Marc Burleigh. Gulf War II Has Become the Ultimate in Reality Television. Agence France Presse, 23 March 2003.
 Doug Ireland. TV Warfare. TomPaine.com. (http://www.TomPaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/7467). Accessed on 31 March 2003.
 Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda M Gloria. Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao. Manila: Institute for Popular Democracy, 2000.
 Agus Sudibyo. Conflict in Aceh and Agenda Setting by TV. The Jakarta Post, 4 September 2003.
 Raymond Arian Rondonuwu, interview with author in Jakarta on 23 Juni 2005.
 Daya Kishan Thussu. War and Media: Reporting Conflict 24/7. London: Sage, 2003.
 Kenneth Payne. The Media as an Instrument of War. Parameters Journal, Spring 2005.
 T. Yulianti, interview with author in Jakarta on 26 June 2005.
 Rand Study of Embedding Reporters, 2003.
 The National Journalists Union of the Philippines (NJUP) report, 2003
 Lucian Truscott. Using the News as a Weapon. The New York Times, 25 March 2003.
 Bob Shacochis. Pens and Swords. Cambridge: Harvard International Review, Winter 2000
 R.H. Siregar, interview with author in Jakarta on 27 June 2005.
 Christopher Paul. Reporters on the Battlefield: The Embedded Press System in Historical Context. Rand Corporation, 2003
 Nanang Sunarto, interview with author at Antara News Agency office, Jakarta, on 30 May 2005.
 The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report on Journalists Attacked by Gunmen in Aceh, 29 May 2003.
A’an Suryana, interview with author in Jakarta on 16 June 2005.
 Arlene Burgos, E-mail interview with author on 25 May 2005.
 Murizal Hamzah, interview with author in Jakarta on 28 May 2005.
 The Jakarta Post, 30 June 2003.
 Nini Cabaero, E-mail interview with author on 26 May 2005.
 A’an Suryana, E-mail interview with author on 2 June 2005.
 Victoria Clarke. Pentagon and Press. Columbia Journalism Review, 2003.
 James Kitfield The Pen and the Sword. http://www.govexec.com/. Accessed on 1 April 2000.
 Stephen Badsey. The Media and International Security. The Sandhurst Conference Series, 2000.
 Ina Mariani Suparto, interview with author in Jakarta on 20 June 2005.
 John Hughes. War Within a War: The Press and the Pentagon. The Christian Science Monitor, 18 December 2002.
 Michael Getler. Challenges: The Press and the Pentagon, remark at an October 2, 2003, Columbia School of Journalism panel on the war and free speech.
 Karen Dunlap. The Troops and the Media. http://www.poynter.org. Accessed on 8 April 2003.
 Andrew Bushell and Brent Cunningham. Being There. Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 2003.
 Established in 1937, Antara was “a revolution tool” for Indonesian founding fathers to fight Dutch and Japanese colonial rulers. After the country got independence in 17 August 1945, Antara became The Indonesian National News Agency which main task was to disseminate the state policies and activities to the people and to the world.
 Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism, What Newspeople Should Know and The Public Should Expect. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001.
 Kate Adie, Reporting War: Dispatches from the Front. London: BBC, 2001.
 Joel Simon. Journalists Are Owed Protection in Wartime. Newsday, 31 March 2003.
 Peter Johnson. Reporters Go Along with Military. USA TODAY, 25 March 2003.
 Deborah Potter. Impressive but Incomplete: TV Networks Struggled to Find a Balance in War
Coverage, AJR, May 2003.
 Christopher Paul. Reporters on the Battlefield: The Embedded Press System in Historical Context,
Rand Corporation, 2003