Former British Ambassador to Afghanistan on embedded journalism.

‘A particular difficulty for the journalists in Kabul is the physical danger of covering the fighting. Combat makes good, if somewhat repetitive, copy, and even better television. But the days are long gone when William Howard Russell of The Times could sit on a nearby hilltop and observe the fighting through his telescope: the modern journalist needs to be embedded with the fighting troops. And, in accepting an embed, he or she can be compromising, both implicitly as well as explicitly (in any agreement he signs), his objectivity. Morally it is difficult, having been under fire with extraordinarily courageous young men, to write negative things about what they have done, or call into question the point of it all. That is of course one reason why defence ministries are eager to embed journalists. Defence correspondents are especially dependent on the military, and the MOD or the Pentagon, for access and information. But they can risk becoming little more than unofficial military spokesmen. Quite legitimately, the military news machines have their own agenda: to create the impression of unstoppable progress, and to boost support at home for the military in general and the campaign in particular’.

Cowper-Coles, Sherard (2011-05-23). Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West’s Afghanistan Campaign (Kindle Locations 1767-1770). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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