Is war reporting losing the propaganda battle?

Politics, finance and technology have changed the role of on-the-ground reporters. A foreign correspondent for more than 40 years, Patrick Cockburn says the march of fake news should remind us of the vital need for eyewitness accounts

Friday 26 October 2018 18:52
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A journalist films the wreckage of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in Barzeh, southern Syria, in 2018
A journalist films the wreckage of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in Barzeh, southern Syria, in 2018
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ar reporting is easy to do but difficult to do well. No one taking part in an armed conflict has an incentive to tell the whole truth. This is the case in all forms of journalism, but in time of military conflict the propaganda effort is at its peak and is aided by the chaos of war, which hobbles anybody searching for the truth about what is really happening.

Military commanders are often more aware than reporters of the complexity and uncertainty of news from the battlefront. Citing such reasons, the Duke of Wellington doubted if a truly accurate account of the Battle of Waterloo could ever be written.

During the American Civil War, the Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson made a somewhat different point. Surveying the scene of recent fighting with an aide, he turned to him and asked: “Did you ever think, Sir, what an opportunity a battlefield affords liars?”

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