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The Embedding Apparatus

Media Surveillance during the Iraq War


Aimé-Jules Bizimana

When the war in Iraq began in 2003, the issue of the special status accorded to journalists covering the military operations arose quite naturally. Promising innovation, the Pentagon’s announcement that they would integrate hundreds of journalists into combat units—what has been known as embedding—attracted the attention of the international media and other observers. How would this be different from previous interactions between the military and the media?

The Embedding Apparatus explains the functioning of the informational control apparatus at work during the Iraq War and the relationships between embedded journalists and the military in the American army’s area of operations. The concept of the apparatus guides this case study, one that brings together the experiences of almost forty participants, journalists and military personnel. The study borrows Michel Foucault’s modern surveillance mechanisms of the disciplinary apparatus and the panoptic apparatus, bringing embedded journalism into close contact with the ubiquitous and flexible surveillance that characterizes the "control society." The author exposes a new embedding apparatus where the power relations between journalists and the military are at play, an apparatus operating within a circumscribed space where all of a journalist’s movements, reporting, behavior and communications are surveilled.

This book offers a fresh insight into this important issue and will certainly be of interest worldwide to scholars and students as well as media and military practitioners interested in this topic. Embedded journalism is studied from a new angle, one related to the broader context of surveillance in contemporary society.

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Chapter 4. The Penalty Apparatus



The Mandatory Rules

The operating rules of battlefield embedding are a set of prescriptions and proscriptions. The first justification of this apparatus is the importance of security to military operations. Published in 2003, the public affairs directive (Public Affairs Guidance) contains the Ground Rules for media coverage of the war. In the preamble to the Ground Rules, the directive states:

For the safety and security of U.S. forces and embedded media, media will adhere to established ground rules. Ground rules will be agreed to in advance and signed by media prior to embedding. Violation of the ground rules may result in the immediate termination of the embed and removal from the AOR.1

Further, it notes that “the ground rules recognize the right of the media to cover military operations and are in no way intended to prevent release of derogatory, embarrassing, negative, or uncomplimentary information.”2 Acceptance of the rules is made official by the journalist signing a three-page document stating that she and her media organization commit to respecting the Ground Rules and will not sue the government in relation to the risks borne during wartime.3 Since the US Civil War (1861–1865), the right to←43 | 44→ publish military information has been coupled with an acceptance of certain conditions by the media.4

Detailed over thirteen pages, the 2003 directive was given to every embedded journalist. The first rule states:

All interviews with...

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