Embedded journalism is anti-democratic. News reporters and hand-picked journalists have been attached to military units before the third war in the Gulf region (2003-) but the term ‘embedded’ has been used then for the first time and ever since. Embedded journalism is daily practice also in Afghanistan. But information warfare should be labeled as such when pictures of the battles are published which are mere propaganda.
Having lived many years in the Middle East, even during the initial phases of that war in nearby Iraq, my colleagues and I desperately depended on a number of brave reporters in Baghdad, Kabul, and Tehran, who were credibly not embedded, who authentically reported about the people and what was going on. One of them is BBC’s Jon Leyne in Tehran. His sympathy for the common Iranian is beyond any doubt. He obviously likes his job, and his intercultural competence opens doors for getting the information he inquires. His always interesting reportages are critical but he explores his subjects from different angles. He does not fuel preconceptions but explains and enlightens.
Another correspondent I want to name in this regard is Ulrich Tilgner. I had admired his sober and emphatic reports from Baghdad during the first US bombardments and afterwards. In the meantime he had moved, after the initial phases of the war, to Tehran. But now he had quitted his contract with Germany’s ZDF TV channel. Too much consideration of allies’ interests were the reason for that, one can read. It is a shame that this rather low quality German channel, in fact governed by public law, wants to focus more on ‘embedded journalism’ at a time when failure of the military adventures in the Middle East and Afghanistan is becoming obvious. When the German Bundestag has to renew the ISAF/OEF mandates for the German Armed Forces, the public needs to be fully informed about all the consequences, worst case scenarios, and how to get out of this war finally. Embedded journalism does not help in that situation very much.