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War and media: Constancy and convulsion

31-12-2005 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 860, by Arnaud Mercier

An effort should be made to identify what has changed and what has remained the same in wartime media management, with due consideration for both dimensions of the relationship that today brings together war and the media, military personnel and journalists.


Arnaud Mercier
is professor at the university Paul Verlaine, Metz (France) and director of the Laboratory “Communication and Politics” at the French National Center for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CNRS). 

To consider the relationship between war and the media is to look at the way in which the media are involved in conflict, either as targets (war on the media) or as an auxiliary (war thanks to the media). On the basis of this distinction, four major developments may be cited that today combine to make war above all a media spectacle: photography, which opened the door to manipulation through stage-management; live technologies, which raise the question of journalists’ critical distance vis-à-vis the material they broadcast and which can facilitate the process of using them; pressure on the media and media globalization, which have led to a change in the way the political and military authorities go about making propaganda; and, finally, the fact that censorship has increasingly come into disrepute, which has prompted the authorities to think of novel ways of controlling journalists.  

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