Are Embedded Journalists Lawful Targets?

Browsing the Internets, I came across an article by Douglas W. Moore in the July issue of Army Lawyer that tackles the difficult question of whether embedded journalists can be considered lawful enemy targets.

To help clarify when an embedded journalist’s activities will result in a loss of protections, this paper recommends three criteria to aid in this evaluation: (1) the integration of war correspondents into military information operations, (2) the eroding distinction between PAO [Public Affairs Office] and war correspondents, and (3) the loss of reporter objectivity on the battlefield.

The Geneva Conventions declare that journalists covering armed conflicts should be treated as civilians, whether they are accredited by the military or not, assuming “they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians.”

According to Army Lawyer, embedded journalists run the risk of losing protections because they are increasingly becoming part of military “information operations” or IO.

Overall, IO seeks to use war correspondent news coverage to support positive public relations, build public support, and support successful information operations against the enemy….

Under “operational security” or OPSEC rules, the military controls what embedded reporters can or can’t report. It uses them for “psychological operations” (PSYOP) targeting foreign audiences, particularly during combat operations. Finally, public affairs officers use embedded press to reach targets back home.

The integrated nature of the embedded press system, combined with this military function, dramatically increases the likelihood that a journalist’s activities will be defined as directly supporting combat operations.

The full article is available here (.pdf).

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