Iraq: propaganda’s war on human rights

By Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop

June 2005

States wage war in the name of peace and democracy. Yet war propaganda can violate human rights and undermine the democratic principles it seeks to champion. Despite this it is rarely acknowledged, by the media, governments, or even anti-war campaigners, that war propaganda is illegal under international human rights law.

Propaganda’s War on Human Rights analyses the legal and practical implications of war propaganda and human rights. Examples of State Practise focus on the United States of America and the United Kingdom, particularly in relation to the ongoing 2003 Iraq war.

Chapter 1: Introduction Gives an overview of the key issues pertaining to war propaganda and human rights.

Chapter 2: War propaganda in international law Gives a detailed discussion of the illegal status of war propaganda under international human rights law. Analyses the effectiveness of war propaganda’s prohibition in preventing the use of war propaganda and in protecting the various rights it threatens.

Chapter 3: The role of the media Analyses the issues faced by media professionals and the role they play in the propaganda process.

Chapter 4: War propaganda and the denial of specific rights Provides a range of specific examples of how human rights are detrimentally affected by war propaganda.

Chapter 1: Introduction

“Taking the nation to war based on misleading rhetoric and hyped intelligence is a travesty and a tragedy. It is the most cynical of all cynical acts.” [1]

Propaganda is defined as ‘material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause’ [2]. As such, it is arguably a vital component of freedom of speech. However, to identify a message as propaganda is “to suggest something negative and dishonest . propaganda is associated with control and is regarded as a deliberate attempt to alter or maintain a balance of power that is advantageous to the propagandist.” [3] It is in such interpretations that propaganda ceases to be a neutral activity, unlike other forms of persuasion in which the message may benefit both the audience and communicator. Propaganda as a function of state strategy during wartime can be synonymous with the distortion of or complete neglect of truthfulness. As Kevin Williams comments in his article on media ethics in wartime, “What is thought by many to be more important than telling the truth about war is winning it.” [4]

However, war propaganda is not only used to help win wars, but can be employed well in advance in making a case for that war, a case which may be based on similar distortion. History provides tangible examples of such practise. For example, a declassified memorandum from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 reveals a plan to justify proposed military intervention in Cuba. The document includes “brief but precise description of pretexts which would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba . World opinion, and the United Nations forum should be favourably affected by developing the international image of the Cuban government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere.” [5] War propaganda therefore presents a subjective viewpoint which is designed to pave the way for war, protect operational security and the lives of service people, maintain morale, ensure commitment to a cause and “make certain that the ‘enemy’ is thoroughly hated” [6]. Governments are certainly not obliged to reveal every detail of their military operations. Indeed the UN human rights treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (ICCPR) [7] allows governments to restrict many rights including freedom of information during a declared ‘State of Emergency’. However, as will be discussed in the next chapter, the guidelines for operating within a state of emergency can be unclear in international law. In communication terms, the effect of this is a blurry division between appropriate censorship and unjustifiable withholding of information, and between appropriate restrictions of freedom of expression and the unsanctioned silencing of dissenting voices. As Morrison and Tumber (1988) say with reference to UK government censorship in the Falklands War: “It appears to be commonly agreed that a government may legitimately withhold information on the grounds that its release might endanger its nationals’ lives or jeopardise the security of an operation. The grey area, however, is in defining the scope of these categories. .The second category . is very wide and accordingly, the greatest controversy has centred on this.” [8]

1.1 History

The waging of war is as old as the history of civilisation, with the earliest archaeological evidence of war dating back 12,000 years at the very beginning of settled, agricultural life. [9] And for as long as rulers and governments have needed to persuade their constituencies that a war is necessary and just, war propaganda has had a place in that history. From Julius Caesar who is alleged to have said “Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervour” to the communications strategies of the US and its allies in the Iraq war which began in 2003, propaganda has been an integral part of wartime policy. The last century has seen wars waged against a backdrop of dramatic media coverage and government communication strategies have therefore necessarily become an integral part of the planning and execution of war. As the International Council on Human Rights Policy (ICHRP) (2002) has stated: “In recent years, Western governments have developed complex communication strategies which they recognise are an important element of military planning in war, and political management in peace.” [10] Successful war propaganda is therefore related to a media which is unwittingly or unwillingly manipulated by the government, or which is a willing party to its propaganda. As the availability of mass media has exploded exponentially in the last century, so too have accusations of it acting as a conduit of government policy, limiting a diversity of views. With this in mind, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), which monitors implementation of the ICCPR, commented in 1983 that “little attention has so far been given to the fact that, because of the development of modern mass media, effective measures are necessary to prevent such control of the media as would interfere with the right of everyone to freedom of expression.” [11] The United States has recently wrestled with issues of media monopoly and control through controversial media ownership measures debated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The US also has one of the largest defence budgets in the world with a requested $399 billion for 2004 (Russia was in second place with a budget of $65 billion [12]). As self proclaimed leader of the free world and superpower, the war propaganda practises of the United States and its key ally Great Britain, will be given particular attention in the analysis below, both through the use of examples and with reference to their ratification of the relevant human rights treaties.

1.2 War propaganda and human rights

Rarely acknowledged, by the media, governments, or even NGOs and anti-war campaigners, is the fact that war propaganda is illegal under international law. Article 20 of the ICCPR states that:

  1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
  2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

Through its prohibition in article 20, war propaganda is acknowledged as being an opponent of human rights – and for good reason. War propaganda is capable of misrepresenting reality so that it compromises not just the abstract notion of truth, but also a wide range of human rights belonging to journalists, military personnel, and domestic, coalition and ‘enemy’ citizens [13]. It does this by:

  • Firstly, limiting the availability of facts, context and transparency of political motivation. Such information, were it available, would allow objective judgements, decisions and opinions to be formed. For example in allowing citizens to answer the question “is the desire of our government to go to war valid and necessary?”. Withholding such information therefore leaves citizens vulnerable to making erroneous political choices which compromise democracy and their participation in society.
  • Secondly, war propaganda can encourage ignorance and create a climate of prejudice and fear which directly compromises human rights. For example, the media and public may ignore the extent of civilian casualties. In the first Gulf War, for example, two bombs dropped from a Stealth fighter-bomber on to a shelter in Baghdad, killing around 1,600 people, mostly women and children. As Phillip Knightly (2000) explains in his discussion on censorship of the war, “television film of the appalling carnage flashed around the world. The bombing and the death toll caused immediate outrage in the British and American press – not because the Allies had incinerated hundreds of women and children but because of the way the Western media had reported it. Television should not have shown the carnage; it was unpatriotic to do so.” [14] This same prejudice means that other violations of the human rights of the enemy side may be tolerated as being necessary to the war effort, for example the numerous allegations of torture which have been levelled at US and British troops during the ongoing Iraq crisis. Meanwhile racial prejudice, discrimination and suspicion on home soil thrive, for example in the treatment of detainees under the British anti-terrorism legislation which the UK Special Immigration Appeals Commission found to be unlawful and discriminatory. [15]
  • Thirdly, regions, countries, peoples and leaders are polarised as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ which pre-supposes a moral right to wage war on (or ‘liberate’) the enemy, and which attempts to establish the crusade of civilising goodness as a higher norm than respecting the rights of alleged ‘evil-doers’. Such practises include President George W Bush’s polarisation of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as the “axis of evil” [16] and Tony Blair’s comment on the Kosovo war that it was not just a military campaign “it is a battle between Good and Evil; between civilisation and barbarity” [17].

Lee Wigle Artz and Mark Pollock (1995) analysed the caricatures that accompanied the first Gulf War, commenting: “The singular demonisation of Hussein was accompanied by commonplace images of other Arabs – including US allies – as incompetent, weak, self-centred and incapable of diplomacy in their own region.The corollary, of course, was another powerful commonplace: the righteousness of a civilized Western world courageously defended by US soldiers. These images had little subtlety or variation.” [18]

  • Finally, war propaganda encourages the branding of dissenters among the domestic population and international community as traitors, terrorists or redundant. For example, in the US, Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh was baited as a “media terrorist” by Pentagon advisor Richard Perle for opposing the 2003 Iraq war [19]. Meanwhile Donald Rumsfeld categorised France and Germany as ‘old Europe’ [20] for their unwillingness to support a war with Iraq and according to the US Administration, the UN “risked irrelevance” [21].

The disapproval and silencing of dissenting voices can therefore be officially sanctioned and encouraged. This silence can be achieved through a variety of means including pro-government media refusing access or via self-censorship for example from fear of losing one’s job or social standing as has been the reported case with anti-war Hollywood actors. [22] By selecting which voices are legitimate, war propaganda is thus capable of violating an array of human rights including the right to freedom of information, the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom from discrimination, and freedom of the press. In this way, the prohibition of war propaganda does not stand in isolation as a right, but is interwoven with various rights it helps to protect. Wars waged based on half-truths, misinformation and lack of accountability therefore compromise a whole spectrum of human rights of which the prohibition of war propaganda is the tip of the iceberg. By perpetuating a culture of might over right, war propaganda also compromises the very nature of democracy, giving rise to unjust political and social outcomes.

Chapter 2: War propaganda in international law

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” [23]

John Donne 1572-1631

The maintenance of global stability is one of the founding missions of the United Nations, which states in its Charter of 1945 that it determines to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . (and ) unite our strength to maintain international peace and security” [24].

As the world tends towards globalisation and as ‘terrorism’ (it is worth noting here that ‘terrorism’ has no agreed international definition [25]) and war increasingly crosses continental and regional boundaries in the same way as trade and ideas, so the humanitarian and political implications of conflict reach further than ever before. The human rights implications may also be larger. The ‘war on terror’, which has been waged internationally by the example set by the United States since the attacks of 11 September 2001, has encompassed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and inflamed conflict and repression in countless other countries. Commenting on this trend, Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s Secretary General (2003) says “Exploiting the international climate favouring “counter-terrorism”, many governments reinforced and renewed their crack-down on political opponents and others whose loyalty they doubt. .Our country reports illustrate numerous examples where, citing national security, government forces acted with impunity to kill, rape, torture and abduct. [26]

Citizens on whose territory war is conducted are affected by civilian deaths and injuries, the destruction of homes, civil infrastructure, healthcare, judicial and policing systems, and erosion of the social and familial fabric of life. The welfare of citizens elsewhere is also jeopardised as they become caught in a ‘them and us’ ‘good vs evil’ battle of the civilized versus the animal. As seen above in the response to the war on terror, this can involve the imposition of a state of emergency as a precursor to increased national security and the subsequent erosion of civil liberties and human rights. All of these results can be detrimentally affected by war propaganda, which can be used to promote the perceived threat and the need for government counter-action.

2.1 Illegal status of war propaganda

“States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression”

UN General Assembly Declaration 1970

In addition to its ‘prohibition and condemnation’ in legally binding treaties, discussed below, war propaganda is specifically condemned in many international resolutions and declarations including:

  • 1947: The condemnation of all forms of propaganda which are designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression – United Nations General Assembly (GA) resolution 110 (II)
  • 1947: An invitation to UN member states to take measures to combat the diffusion of false or distorted reports likely to injure friendly relations between States – GA resolution 127 (II)
  • 1970: Assertion by the GA that “States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression” – GA Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States
  • 1970: Resolution to counter propaganda on behalf of war, racialism, apartheid and hatred among nations – United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) resolution 4.301
  • 1978: UN Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War
  • 1984: A call by the GA for “all States that have not yet done so to take effective measures with a view to prohibiting any propaganda for war, in particular the formulation, propounding and dissemination of propaganda for doctrines and concepts aimed at unleashing nuclear war” – GA Resolution 134, Human rights and use of scientific and technological developments

The GA, responsible for some of the documents above, is the main committee of the United Nations, composed of representatives of all member states, each of which has one vote. The work of the UN is largely generated from the decisions, or resolutions, of the GA so that it carries out “.the will of the majority of the Members as expressed in resolutions adopted by the Assembly.” [27]

GA resolutions have no legally binding force for UN member states and their ability to express principles and rules of law via opinio juris communis is controversial, because some resolutions are passed by a majority and not by a consensus vote.

However, GA resolutions are seen to carry the weight of world opinion and the moral authority of the world community. In that sense, the GA declarations and resolutions listed above provide weight to the prohibition of war propaganda in international treaty law.

2.2 Legally Binding Treaties

With regard to legally binding treaties, the International Convention concerning the Use of Broadcasting in the Cause of Peace, sponsored by the League of Nations in 1936, contains reference to ‘incitement to war’. Article 2 states “The High Contracting Parties mutually undertake to ensure that transmissions from stations within their respective territories shall not constitute an incitement either to war against another High Contracting Party or to acts likely to lead thereto”. Article 3 requires States parties to prohibit and, if occasion arises, to stop without delay within their respective territories any transmission likely to harm good international understanding by statements the incorrectness of which is or ought to be known to the persons responsible for the broadcast.”

“The ICCPR explicitly prohibits war propaganda through article 20, paragraph 1 which states that “any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

This convention is relatively limiting because it refers only to broadcast media. However, two international treaties refer specifically to “war propaganda” and have a broader scope which is not conditional on the type of media used. The first is the 1952 Convention on the International Right of Correction (CIRC) which states in its preamble: “Desiring . to combat all propaganda which is either designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression”. This treaty is concerned with “securing commensurate publicity” to correct a media report which directly affects a State but which is considered by that State to be false or distorted. Prohibition of war propaganda is acknowledged in the preamble of the treaty as being “desired” by States parties to the treaty. The legal status of the CIRC in relation to war propaganda is again relatively weak, serving simply to affirm that the state parties to the treaty oppose war propaganda. This unanimous opposition to war propaganda among the treaty’s signatories (albeit only 15 of them) does however add weight to the prohibition of war propaganda via the principle of Opinio Juris, which affirms a state’s positive sense of legal obligation and helps create principles of customary law.

The Condemnation of War Propaganda:

  • United Nations General Assembly (GA) resolution 110 (II) 1947
  • GA resolution 127 (II) 1947
  • GA Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States 1970
  • United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) resolution 4.301 o counter propaganda on behalf of war, racialism, apartheid and hatred among nations 1970
  • UN Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War 1978
  • GA Resolution 134 1984, Human rights and use of scientific and technological developments • International Convention concerning the Use of Broadcasting in the Cause of Peace, sponsored by the League of Nations in 1936
  • UN Convention on the International Right of Correction 195

The CIRC was followed in 1966 by the ICCPR, which explicitly prohibits war propaganda through article 20, paragraph 1 which states that “any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law”. This is by far the strongest treaty in terms of both its explicit prohibition of war propaganda and the number of state parties.

Interestingly, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), which pre-dates the ICCPR by 16 years, does not have an article on war propaganda.

This is not necessarily surprising, as Steiner and Alston (1996) explain in ‘International Human Rights in Context’: “When the Convention was adopted in 1950, there were several outstanding proposals on which final agreement could not be reached. It was therefore agreed to adopt Protocols containing additional provisions.” [28] The ECHR has since been amended in line with the additional protocols, of which there are a total of 13. However, none have to-date been drafted on war propaganda.

The ECHR has articles, which could be applied to the prohibition of war propaganda such as the right to freedom of expression (article 10) and prohibition of discrimination (article 14). The European Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg was the first international court to be established to determine human rights matters, in this case arising out of the ECHR. A search of the court’s case law [29] shows that almost all cases which refer to propaganda are in relation to article 10. However these cases are concerned with protecting the individual’s right of freedom of expression against the State and do not deal with the violation of an individual’s rights which result from State propaganda.

2.3 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Like article 10 of the ECHR, legal discourse around Article 20 of the ICCPR and the prohibition of war propaganda tends to connect war propaganda directly with incitement to racial hatred and in both cases to focus on a State’s obligation to “restrict the freedom of expression in these circumstances”. As this quote from Rhona Smith’s Textbook on International Human Rights Law (2003) illustrates. However, as it is often the State promoting the propaganda this is problematic as it is asking a State to restrict the freedom of expression which carries its own propaganda – such a restriction therefore being counter to its own interests. With this in mind, a climate of war propaganda can also mean that the voices of opposition to war have their right to freedom of expression limited by the State in inappropriate ways, as will be discussed in Chapter 4.

Referring to article 20 of the ICCPR, Dr Arthur Clark of the University of Calgary claims that George W Bush directly ordered war propaganda to be developed around the Iraq war 2003 and should therefore be held accountable under international law.

Clark cites as his evidence an article in the National Post from January 8 2003 in which “David Frum talks about his work as an advisor to US President George W Bush. The headline says, ‘I was told to provide a justification for war.’. This was an explicit instruction to the advisor to the President in a country that has ratified the ICCPR. The President is instructing his advisor to develop propaganda for war.” claims Clark. [30]

However, there is a long road to be travelled from alleging evidence of an instruction or act of war propaganda, to culpability under international law. This is because war propaganda’s illegal status is diluted by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Article 20’s applicability only to wars which are contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. However it is difficult to prove that a war has such a status – just take the recent debate in the UK around the legality or illegality of the Iraq War 2003.
  2. A state needs to have ratified the ICCPR in order to be bound by Article 20.
  3. Even if a state has ratified the ICCPR, the quality and quantity of its reporting to the Human Rights Committee about article 20 may not be satisfactory.
  4. There is an absence of domestic legislation to enforce the prohibition of war propaganda.
  5. A state may have made reservations which diminish the effect of the provisions of the ICCPR, including to article 20 or rights affected by war propaganda.
  6. A state may not have ratified the first optional protocol to the ICCPR which gives the right to individual petition, allowing a complaint to be brought where an individual alleges their rights have been violated as a result of a breach of article 20.
  7. Many rights which could be violated as a result of war propaganda, such as freedom of information and freedom of expression, are derogable in a state of emergency. A state of emergency will almost always be declared when a country is facing war and therefore conducting a campaign of war propaganda, thus making the erosion of these rights almost inevitable in a situation of war propaganda.
  8. There is no definition, legal or otherwise, of ‘war propaganda’ in the ICCPR or by the HRC or other intergovernmental organisation.

2.4 A just war

In its General Comment 11 of 1983 “Prohibition of propaganda for war and inciting national, racial or religious hatred, Article 20”, the HRC clarifies the scope of Article 20 by stating that: “The prohibition under paragraph 1 extends to all forms of propaganda threatening or resulting in an act of aggression or breach of the peace contrary to the Charter of the United Nations (authors italics) . The provisions of article 20, paragraph 1, do not prohibit advocacy of the sovereign right of self-defence or the right of peoples to self-determination and independence in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” The prohibition of war propaganda therefore applies to wars which are waged outside the rules of the UN Charter. The UN Charter, to avoid conflict by all possible means, invests the Security Council with powers for the pacific settlement of disputes (Chapter VI) and for action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression (Chapter VII). [31]

The Charter specifically states in Article 2 that:

“All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered . All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Furthermore, article 39 states: “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

The Jus Ad Bellem Convention of international law also embodies the principles of the justice of war. These are commonly held to be: having just cause, being declared by a proper authority, possessing right intention, having a reasonable chance of success, and the end being proportional to the means used. [32]

In submitting a legal argument, which claims the use of war propaganda, one therefore has to prove that the war concerned is outside of the limits imposed by the UN Charter. As the 2003 Iraq war and previous wars have shown, the issues involved in proving or disproving a war’s legality are extremely complex.

In the case of the United States and Britain in early 2003, these allied States argued that the impending invasion of Iraq was consistent with the UN Charter and Security Council resolution 1441. This centred on the interpretation of the statement in resolution 1441 that Iraq will face “serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations” [33].

Although there was disagreement on this issue within the Security Council, international community and media, such debate did not impede the eventual declaration of war – the US and UK bypassing further UN debate when they learned that France would veto a new resolution. The focus soon shifted away from discussions over the war’s legality onto issues such as humanitarian assistance and mobilisation of the war effort. It could be argued that this shift in attention was itself a function of successful war propaganda.

Similarly in the 1991 Gulf war, there was controversy over the war’s legality. As Edward Herman explains in his 1992 book on propaganda:

“The UN resolution finally extracted by the United States giving it the right to go to war did not require war – that was an option to be used if needed to get Iraq out of Kuwait. The UN Charter . assigns responsibility for the use of force to the Council, not to the US president. An excellent case can therefore be made that the US attack on Iraq violated both the UN Charter and the UN implementing resolution.” [34]

2.5 State parties to the ICCPR

Despite the fact that there are over 150 State Parties to the ICCPR, there appears to be absolutely no evidence that any measures have been taken to impose self-restraint or enter into a legal debate about the use of war propaganda.

The word propaganda is used to dismiss statements by an enemy State as untrue, but is never analysed, discussed or referred to in a legal context. States do not even publicly acknowledge article 20 of the ICCPR in the war propaganda process, whether this be to their own actions or criticize those of opposing states.

The reporting procedure for State Parties to the ICCPR, which includes reporting on implementation of article 20, is laid out in article 40 of the covenant.

Although a legally binding instrument, the system has basic limitations in terms of effectively enforcing implementation of the ICCPR. As discussed by Ineke Boerefijn (1995) in Human Rights Quarterly [35], the initial stage of implementation is at the behest of the state, which must first ratify the ICCPR. Then, once a party to the covenant, the system requires a minimum level of voluntary cooperation by the state.

The only steps the HRC can take in the case of a state party failing to submit its report, is to mention this failure in the Committee’s Annual Report to the General Assembly. The sheer number of state parties that have failed to report on time, with this and other human rights treaties, shows that states do not regard this to be of major significance.

A major problem with reporting on article 20 specifically, is that in order for a State to provide information on the status of propaganda surrounding a war effort and the measures taken to limit this, a State would have to admit that the war referred to is contrary to the UN Charter – otherwise, as indicated above, there would be no need to limit the propaganda.

So, for example, in a report by a State to the HRC about the positive measures taken to limit war propaganda or in recommendations by the HRC about the need to exercise the restraint required by article 20, the illegality of the war would have to be explicitly discussed. This is something a State would almost certainly refuse to do. Meanwhile the function of the HRC is not to judicially determine the legality of war.

Reporting on article 20, rather than talking about the approach taken in real life situations, will therefore almost always be theoretical in nature, focussing for example on domestic legislation.

However, States do not necessarily even mention article 20, paragraph 1 in their States Reports. For example the most recent periodic report to the HRC by the United Kingdom, submitted in 1999, does not mention war propaganda in the section on the implementation of article 20. [36]

Amid rising concern over poor implementation and reporting on article 20, the HRC’s General Comment 11 1983, notes: “Not all reports submitted by States parties have provided sufficient information as to the implementation of article 20 of the Covenant. In view of the nature of article 20, States parties are obliged to adopt the necessary legislative measures prohibiting the actions referred to therein. “However, the reports have shown that in some States such actions are neither prohibited by law nor are appropriate efforts intended or made to prohibit them. Furthermore, many reports failed to give sufficient information concerning the relevant national legislation and practice.”

Where war propaganda is mentioned in a State report, it may even be protected as in the case of the United States and its most recent report to the HRC in 1994 (reports due in 1998 and 2003 are still awaiting submission by the US). The USA’s “Initial report of States parties to the ICCPR” states that “Under the First Amendment, opinions and speech are protected categorically, without regard to content. Thus, the right to engage in propaganda of war is as protected as the right to advocate pacifism, and the advocacy of hatred as protected as the advocacy of fellowship.” [37]

In addition to this, the United States has made a declaration to nullify the effect of article 2 [38] of the covenant so that the ICCPR is not immediately applicable in the United States. The declaration states “. the United States declares that the provisions of articles 1 through 27 of the Covenant are not self-executing.” This means that for the USA, the legal requirement to codify the provisions of the Covenant into domestic law may not be realised. The failure to prohibit war propaganda in domestic law is a wide problem. General Comment 11 notes the importance of domestic legislation limiting or prohibiting war propaganda, as required by the terms of the ICCPR: “Comprehensive implementation measures, which themselves contain legal obligations, are contained in the second article which includes the adoption of “legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognised in the present Covenant”.

“For article 20 to become fully effective there ought to be a law making it clear that propaganda and advocacy as described therein are contrary to public policy and providing for an appropriate sanction in case of violation. The Committee, therefore, believes that States parties which have not yet done so should take the measures necessary to fulfil the obligations contained in article 20, and should themselves refrain from any such propaganda or advocacy.” However 20 years after this General Comment was issued, a random sampling of States reports on the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Treaty Body Database [39] reveals no evidence of cooperation or progress in this area. In some cases, domestic legislation under Article 20 could even be used to punish those who oppose the government. For example, the Fourth periodic report of Chile 1998 outlines domestic measures under article 20 saying: “The State Security Act punishes anyone who in any manner or by any means rises up against the established Government . especially anyone who by means of the spoken or written word or any other medium spreads or foments doctrines aimed at the . alteration of the social order or the republican and democratic form of government . and anyone who promotes doctrines advocating crime or violence in any form as a means of bringing about political, economic or social change.” [40]

This reflects concerns raised above about Article 20 being used to address violations only of individual citizens rather than of representatives of the State. Curiously, the HRC’s Concluding observations issued in response to Chile’s report, did not raise any concerns with Chile’s provisions under Article 20. [41]

2.6 Reservations

The authority of the ICCPR is further undermined by reservations made by States parties to the covenant. This is a broad problem for many treaties.

In 1994, the Human Rights Committee issued general comment 24 on ‘issues relating to reservations’ outlining its concern over the number and content of reservations to the ICCPR. The HRC stated: “The number of reservations, their content and their scope may undermine the effective implementation of the Covenant and tend to weaken respect for the obligations of States parties.”

Seventeen states have made reservations or declarations against Article 20 [42]. Eleven of these, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States find it to contradict the guarantee of free speech set forth in Article 19, paragraph 2.

Article 19(2) states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.

Reflecting comments in its state report to the HRC, the reservation by the United States says “Article 20 does not authorize or require legislation or other action by the United States that would restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” [43]

Commenting on the US reservation to article 20, the American Society of International Law notes that “A reservation or understanding is appropriate in this instance, in order to clarify internationally the fact that US obligations under this article are subject to the mandate of the First Amendment.” [44]

However, it is not clear that such reservations are acceptable to the ICCPR. The International Court of Justice issued advisory opinion 15 in 1951 which established the necessity for reservations to be compatible with the ‘object and purpose’ of a treaty. The opinion related specifically to the Genocide Convention but has since been quoted with respect to other treaties. [45]

Reservations to rights which are non-derogable are inadmissible because seeking to dilute essential articles or rights within a treaty is in contravention of the treaty’s purpose. As Jaime Oraá (1992) comments: “Due to the extraordinary importance of the principle of non-derogability of some rights, it would be prima facie against the spirit of the treaties to make reservations to such fundamental rights.” [46]

This sentiment is reinforced by General Comment 24 which states: “reservations that offend peremptory norms would not be compatible with the object and purpose of the Covenant . Accordingly, provisions in the Covenant that represent customary international law (and a fortiori when they have the character of peremptory norms) may not be the subject of reservations.” [47]

This is relevant because very recent history has seen the prohibition of war propaganda proposed as a non-derogable right by the HRC.

2.7 War propaganda as non-derogable

Non-derogable rights are considered to be universally mandatory. These rights, from which no deviation is allowed, have the status of Jus Cogens or a peremptory norm – an elevated status of right above that of a customary law [48].

Article 53 of the Vienna Conventions on the Law of treaties explains the nature of a peremptory norm: “a peremptory norm of general international law is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” [49] The International Court of Justice has the responsibility of judicially determining peremptory norms.

Article 4 of the ICCPR contains a list of non-derogable rights:

  1. In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.
  2. No derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision. [50]

The prohibition of war propaganda was recognised by the HRC as being non-derogable in 2001 through General Comment 29 on States of Emergency. In it, the Committee elaborates on non-derogable rights, adding to the list found in Article 4 paragraph 2, quoted above.

General Comment 29 provides a further five examples of non-derogable rights, introducing these by saying: “In those provisions of the Covenant that are not listed in article 4, paragraph 2, there are elements that in the Committee’s opinion cannot be made subject to lawful derogation under article 4. Some illustrative examples are presented below.”

The five examples given are article 10 the inherent dignity of the human person, the prohibition of the taking of hostages, elements of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, the prohibition of the forced displacement of populations, and the prohibition of war propaganda.

On the non-derogability of the prohibition of war propaganda, General Comments 29 notes: “No declaration of a state of emergency . may be invoked as justification for a State party to engage itself, contrary to article 20, in propaganda for war, or in advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that would constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” [51]

This declaration by the HRC is not as strong a statement as making the prohibition of all war propaganda non-derogable. This is because it specifies only ‘propaganda for war’ on the condition that it is justified by the ‘declaration of a state of emergency’.

However, as noted above, a state of emergency will almost always be declared when a country is facing war and hence is conducting a war propaganda programme. In almost all cases this non-derogability will therefore apply.

“In spite of the non-derogability of the prohibition of war propaganda and therefore the implied inadmissibility of reservations to Article 20 paragraph 1, no State Party has objected to any of the 11 reservations to war propaganda noted above, as is their entitlement under Article 20 “Acceptance of and objection to reservations” of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. General Comments by the HRC do carry legal weight. Thomas Buergenthal [52], a former member of the HRC, notes, “General comments . have gradually become important instruments in the lawmaking process of the Committee”. Therefore State Parties should take its recommendation as to the non-derogability of the prohibition of war propaganda seriously. It is worth noting however, that the status of non-derogable rights is problematic. The three main human rights treaties – the ICCPR, the ECHR and the American Convention on Human Rights ACHR – establish different lists of non-derogable rights. So, as Jaime Oraá (1992) explains, although each “is a useful indicator of non-derogable rights, it is not immediately clear that all those rights are in fact non-derogable in general international law.” [53]

It therefore appears that although the HRC wishes to strengthen the status of the prohibition of war propaganda, it is reliant on the combination of state practise and opinio juris to enact this into legal reality as a customary international law (see footnote 26). This seems somewhat at odds with war propaganda having the supposedly higher legal status of a non-derogable right.

2.8 Right of individual petition

The first Optional Protocol to the ICCPR gives a right of individual petition so that citizens can submit a complaint to the HRC for investigation, if the individual alleges a breach of an article in the ICCPR. The protocol enables “the Human Rights Committee . to receive and consider, as provided in the present Protocol, communications from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant”. [54]

It is therefore conceivable that an individual whose rights have been violated as a result of war propaganda seek redress through the UN system, subject to the State having ratified the Optional Protocol. Two thirds of States parties to the ICCPR are party to the Optional Protocol [55]. The UK and the United States have not ratified the Optional Protocol.

Although war propaganda is prohibited under article 20 of the ICCPR, the effect of a breach of the prohibition of war propaganda is in the denial of other rights. For this reason, it is unlikely that individual petitions will arise under article 20 but that the individual would instead seek redress for the denial of a specific right which has resulted, for example freedom of expression (article 19, ICCPR).

A barrier to seeking redress in this way, is the fact that many of the rights compromised by war propaganda, such as freedom of information and freedom of expression, are derogable in a state of emergency.

2.9 Problems with derogations

The status of these rights is further weakened because the right to derogation is often misused and the legal processes required for lawful derogation are not respected by States.

The HRC has noted a range of problems with States parties derogating from the ICCPR and has issued two general comments on the derogation article, article 4. The first, General Comment 5 “Derogation of Rights”, issued in 1981, states:

“Article 4 of the Covenant has posed a number of problems for the Committee when considering reports from some States parties . in the case of a few States which had apparently derogated from Covenant rights, it was unclear not only whether a state of emergency had been officially declared but also whether rights from which the Covenant allows no derogation had in fact not been derogated from and further whether the other States parties had been informed of the derogations and of the reasons for the derogations.” [56]

Some States were therefore suspected of:

  • Derogating from the allowable rights but not necessarily within the official framework of the declaration of a state of emergency.
  • Derogating from non-derogable protected rights.

The failure to respect state of emergency guidelines has significant implications for rights affected by war propaganda because a State of Emergency is likely to be a precondition of an environment in which war propaganda is implemented.

Rights are put at risk where their derogation is not limited to the strict boundaries of a State of Emergency situation. However, the declaration of a State of Emergency is a fundamental obligation of States wishing to benefit from the reduction of rights allowed by Article 4 of the ICCPR.

Paragraph 3 of the ICCPR, explains the declaration procedure:

“Any State Party to the present Covenant availing itself of the right of derogation shall immediately inform the other States Parties to the present Covenant, through the intermediary of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, of the provisions from which it has derogated and of the reasons by which it was actuated. A further communication shall be made, through the same intermediary, on the date on which it terminates such derogation.”

Jaime Oraá (1992) comments on the frequency of non-compliance of the declaration of a State of Emergency, saying: “This widespread failure happens in spite of the clearly stated terms found in article 4(3), the great importance given to this requirement by the drafters of the Covenant, and the occasional insistence of the HR Committee on the need to comply.” [57]

Twenty years after General Comment 5, the HRC issued General Comment 29 in 2001 on States of Emergency, which has already been discussed above in the context of the expansion of the list of non-derogable rights. General Comment 29 shows that two decades after raising concerns in General Comment 5, State practise regarding the declaration of a state of emergency is still far from compliant.

The significance of the principle of notification is reinforced again by the HRC in this extract from General comment 29: “Two fundamental conditions must be met: the situation must amount to a public emergency that threatens the life of the nation, and the state party must have officially proclaimed a state of emergency, noting that the latter requirement is essential for the maintenance of the principles of legality and rule of law at times when they are most needed.” [58]

It is not enough for this proclamation to amount to a mere press statement or government announcement, but requires substantial documentation. As General Comment 29 further explains: “The notification of the imposition of a state of emergency should include full information about the measures taken and a clear explanation of the reasons for them, with full documentation attached regarding their law . the requirement of immediate notification applies equally in relation to the termination of derogation”. [59]

This failure to notify raises complex legal questions. Jaime Oraá (1992) asks does the failure to comply with this requirement “affect the validity of the right (of derogation) itself” [60]. So, without such a declaration could it be that States are not entitled to derogate from any rights at all.

General Comment 29 goes further than General Comment 5 by questioning the practise of derogating from derogable rights in a legally declared State of Emergency, stating: “The fact that some of the provisions of the Covenant have been listed in article 4(2) as not being subject to derogation does not mean that other articles in the Covenant may be subjected to derogations at will, even where a threat to the life of the nation exists.” [61]

In General Comment 19, the HRC also requires States to provide justification beyond the fact that mere presence of a conflict assumes the right to declare a State of Emergency and derogate from rights, saying: “The Covenant requires that even during an armed conflict measures of derogation are allowed only if and to the extent that the situation constitutes a threat to the life of the nation.” [62] The HRC is therefore increasing its demands on states by asking them to:

  • Carefully the declaration of a State of Emergency even in time of conflict;
  • Follow the requirements for how that declaration should be carried out;
  • Avoid derogating from non-derogable rights;
  • Finally, not to assume that in a State of Emergency even derogable rights can be automatically waived or their thresholds decreased.

However, in spite of such strong and repeated guidance from the HRC, States are given significant flexibility with regard to the declaration of a State of Emergency.

2.10 Margin of appreciation

The concept of proportionality, which is well established in international law, requires the means employed to be proportional to the end to be realised. In the case of derogations this means that the derogatory measures must be proportional to the threat.

In reality however the question of whether measures taken are proportional to the threat to the nation rests with the State, which can be given generous leeway in this regard.

Like Article 4 of the ICCPR, Article 15 of the ECHR [63] allows States parties to derogate from certain rights during a state of emergency. Judgements by the European Court of Human Rights regarding this article are significant because the court’s jurisprudence has been influential in developing international human rights norms. For example, both the Inter-American Court and the HRC have frequently referred to judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.

In such judgements, the European Court of Human Rights gives States a ‘margin of appreciation’, which allows the State to assess and their own situation without recourse to the Court.

For example, in Brannigan and McBride versus the UK (1993), the European Court of Human Rights held that:

“By reason of their direct and continuous contact with the pressing needs of the moment, the national authorities are in principle in a better position than the international judge to decide both on the presence of such an emergency and on the nature and scope of derogations necessary to avert it. Accordingly, in this matter a wide margin of appreciation should be left to the national authorities”. [64]

2.11 The war on terror

This margin of appreciation in favour of the State has had a huge impact on states of emergency and emergency legislation declared as a result of the global terrorist threat. This is directly relevant to the issue of war propaganda because of the rhetoric surrounding the ‘war on terror’ and the rights affected.

As Human Rights Watch says in its report Opportunism in the Face of Tragedy, Repression in the name of Anti-Terrorism [65]:

“States are using emergency measures to serve political ends by defining undesirable groups or individuals as part of the global terrorist threat. During the months following September 11 . many countries around the globe cynically attempted to take advantage of this struggle to intensify their own crackdowns on political opponents, separatists and religious groups, or to suggest they should be immune from criticism of their human rights practices.”

Because the perceived terrorist threat is so ill-defined and seemingly omnipresent, the state of emergency has become a permanent feature for many countries. These States increased national security measures on the basis of a constant threat from a multitude of countries and terrorist sources. Propaganda – in this case on the war against terror – plays a large part in convincing a population that such measures are reasonable and proportional.

As Edward Herman (1992) notes: “Terrorism is a fuzzy notion that can be employed with great indignation against selected enemies . this can be accomplished only if a cooperative media will not look closely, ask questions, and challenge double standards and propagandistic usage.” [66]

In response to restrictions imposed on the right to freedom of expression and to freedom of information in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, the May 2002 UNESCO Conference on Media and Terrorism in Manila adopted a Resolution on Terrorism and Media.

The resolution, adopted by media professionals and press freedom groups, resolved that “any strategy to address the threat of terrorism must promote greater respect for freedom of expression and of the media, rather than imposing restrictions on these fundamental rights” and that “the threat of terrorism should not be used as an excuse to impose restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and of the media, or on freedom of information”. [67]

The war against terror therefore presents a very specific problem for the limits of a State of Emergency and for the use of war propaganda. In this case, ‘war propaganda’ is that of an abstract umbrella war. However it contains very real country-specific wars such as in Afghanistan 2002 and Iraq 2003. So the yardstick, presented by the HRC in General Comment 11, that Article 20 “extends to all forms of propaganda threatening or resulting in an act of aggression or breach of the peace contrary to the Charter of the United Nations” applies as much to wars fought in the name of anti-terrorism as any other.

2.12 Incitement to genocide and hate speech

War propaganda can condemn a country’s regime as a justification for an act of aggression, which seeks to undermine that regime and its power. However, it is also possible for war propaganda to vilify supporters of that regime, and by generalisation and stereotyping, to condemn a whole race or nation.

As Phillip Knightly (2000) explains: “All governments realise that to wage war successfully their troops must learn to dehumanise the enemy. The simplest way to achieve this is to inflame nationalistic or racist feelings, or both.” [68]

Or, in the case of the war against terrorism, propaganda condemns the ‘uncivilised’ which by implication and by virtue of the ethnicity of a small number of terrorist suspects has been taken to include specific cultures or races such as Muslims or Arabs. The Arab American Institute for example talks of “the tide of hate and backlash against ethnic Americans” [69] in the aftermath of September 11, which has resulted from such condemnation.

In its extreme form therefore, war propaganda can involve incitement to acts of violence against a specific race or group of people. It is therefore worth noting the legal definitions of such propaganda and significant legal precedents in this area.

The concept of propaganda in the ICCPR is extended by General Comment 29 to include not only propaganda for war but also “propaganda . in advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that would constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” This therefore broadens the wording of Article 20 paragraph 2 which states: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred .”. This new use of the word propaganda therefore brings the scope of the ICCPR into line with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) [70]. Article 4 of ICERD reads:

“States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form.

“States Parties . shall declare an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin.”

The prohibition of rascist propaganda is also found in a range of other treaties and declarations.

Article 3 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide also prohibits propaganda which discriminates according to race or population by acting as an incitement to genocide: “The following acts shall be punishable . Direct and public incitement to commit genocide.”

The UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice adopted in 1978 instructs States to “take all appropriate steps . to prevent, prohibit and eradicate racism, racist propaganda, racial segregation and apartheid.” The most recent treaty concerning racist propaganda is the Council of Europe’s Additional Protocol to the Convention on cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems of 2003 which aims to confront the “risk of misuse or abuse of such computer systems to disseminate racist and xenophobic propaganda.”

2.13 Freedom of expression versus the prevention of hate speech

The balance between upholding freedom of expression and preventing racist propaganda can be problematic and is an area of poor consensus in the international community as illustrated by the number of reservations to article 20.

Indeed, reflecting the theme of reservations to other treaties, the USA has made a reservation to article 4 of ICERD on the grounds it inhibits the constitutional right to speak freely regardless of content. [71]

The third paragraph of article 19 of the ICCPR allows restrictions to be placed on freedom of information and expression, stating:

“The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

This paragraph can therefore be applied to limit hate speech. The ECHR and ICCPR emphasise measures ‘necessary in a democratic society’ in implementing the various rights. This can be an important principle in legal judgments regarding hate speech, because it connects the right to freedom of expression to the right to freedom from discrimination.

For example, in 1984 the Canadian Supreme Court convicted James Keegstra for the promotion of hatred against ‘identifiable groups’ when as a school teacher he gave anti-Semitic teachings. The Court noted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulates that the rights are subject to reasonable limits that can be justified in a democratic society. Explains Josef Szwarc in his book Faces of Racism (2001), “Accordingly, the government might be justified in banning the propagation of ideas that are hostile to democratic values, such as advocating racial and religious discrimination.”

There is however the potential for paragraph 3 of Article 19 to be misused by States to limitations on freedom of speech and access to information outside of the state of emergency concept discussed in Chapter 2, therefore giving States even more flexibility with regards to limits on these rights.

2.14 Incitement to Genocide and Hate Speech Precedents

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has provided important precedents for incitement to genocide. The tribunal was established by the UN Security Council to contribute to the process of national reconciliation in Rwanda by prosecuting those responsible for the 1994 genocide.

The Akayesu case was the first international genocide trial in history [72] The trail chamber ruled that by “speeches made in public and in a public place”, Jean Paul Akayesu, a local official, had “the intent to directly create a particular state of mind in his audience necessary to lead to the destruction of the Tutsi group, as such. Accordingly, the Chamber finds that the said acts constitute the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” [73]

Furthermore, the Trial Chamber held that direct and public incitement to commit genocide is punishable even if the accused is not successful in achieving the result desired. [74] Akayesu was sentenced to life imprisonment for direct and public incitement to commit genocide. In the case of Georges Ruggiu, a journalist and broadcaster with Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM), the judgement found Ruggiu played a crucial role in the incitement of ethnic hatred and violence, which RTLM vigorously pursued.” [75] In his broadcasts at the RTLM, Ruggiu encouraged setting up roadblocks and congratulated perpetrators of massacres of the Tutsis at these roadblocks. Ruggiu was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for direct and public incitement to commit Genocide.

Meanwhile as at May 2005, appeals are ongoing for three other members of the media, Professor Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, both of RTLM and Hassan Ngeze, editor of a newspaper Kangura. All were charged with incitement to commit genocide [76].

There have been no international, and at least no widely publicised domestic, prosecutions based on a violation of the prohibition of war propaganda contained in Article 20 of the ICCPR. However, should such cases be brought in the future, the significance of these ICTR prosecutions is in the culpability of the media. Four out of five of the above mentioned cases concerned the prosecution of media professionals.

According to the ICHRP (2002) “The central questions in (the ICTR) are these: Can journalism kill? And at what point does political propaganda become criminal?” [77]. This question applies equally to the role of media in war propaganda.

Chapter 3: The role of the media

“America at War!’ the airwaves cry Blind to the consequence of what that means When far away, the corpses bleeding lie And media withholds the limb-strewn scenes.” [78]

Ian Reed

For governments, the media is an integral part of a war effort both in mobilising public opinion in favour of military action and in maintaining support for a war that may last months or years. Many wars have been fought based on an agenda of combating human rights abuses or diffusing a threat to global peace and security. Meanwhile sub-agendas such as business interests, political alliances and the protection or development of world power, are hidden from view by officials.

The ICHRP (2002) has expressed concern over the misuse of human rights concerns in war propaganda, stating: “Governments and other authorities have often used human rights to manipulate or inflame public opinion, particularly when they are involved in wars.” [79]

A function of war propaganda is therefore to deflect attention from hidden agendas to maximise support for government actions. The ICHRP (2002) provides an example: “A 1991 report on governmental restrictions in the United States after the Second Gulf War concluded that ‘information was restricted or manipulated not for national security purposes, but for political purposes – to protect the image and priorities of the Department of Defence and its civilian leaders, including the President’ ” [80]

This role is in conflict with the rights and needs of citizens who depend on the media to inform them accurately about the rationale for war and its progress, so that they can make educated decisions about backing their government in its actions or lobbying for change.

The media therefore has a crucial role in refusing to simply parrot the government line and in uncovering hidden facts. Article 1 of the 1978 Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War (Declaration on Mass Media) reinforces this point:

“The strengthening of peace and international understanding, the promotion of human rights and the countering of racialism, apartheid and incitement to war demand a free flow and a wider and better balanced dissemination of information. To this end, the mass media have a leading contribution to make.” [81]

This role is not only a function of working toward a peaceful world, but also of democracy itself to which all parties to the United Nations subscribe. [82] As part of a democratic society, voters need to judge a government’s policies and practices not just through governmental reports and statements but via material provided via third parties. As Denis McQuail (1997) summarises: “.democratic political process . require the services of public channels of communication; the full concept of citizenship presupposes an informed and participant body of citizen.” [83]

This process is clearly undermined by the use of propaganda. According to Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell in their analysis of propagandic techniques and definitions (1992) we “have witnessed the increasing use of professional ‘manipulators’ of public opinion, especially in the political arena. Unchecked, this trend threatens . to subvert the very foundations of our democratic society.” [84]

3.1 Media responsibility

The media therefore has responsibilities within democratic society, including to report the truth. The degree to which this is possible is hotly debated in the field of media ethics and communications theory. David Gordon (1999) for example, believes that “truth telling is a first principle in journalism, to the point where if choices must be made, truth must be given primacy over any other ethical concerns.” [85]

But what does telling ‘the truth’ involve and whose truth is it? In order to avoid subjectivity and the presentation of a narrow viewpoint, the media it could be argued, should provide context and analysis over and above simple news briefings.

However, there are problems with such a demand:

  • Firstly, historical context is unattractive for news outlets because history, even a few weeks old, is not news and is therefore superfluous to news output.
  • Secondly, detailed analysis and contextual data are too lengthy for the bite-sized formats of contemporary news output.
  • Finally, studies have shown that the public does not necessarily have an appetite for the broader truth it claims to have a right to (see section 3.5 below).

Meanwhile there are other barriers to the media’s ability to report fully and objectively which include Government and commercial censorship and the concept of objectivity itself.

For example, by virtue of his or her upbringing and life experiences, a journalist will subconsciously filter material they consider to be valid for inclusion in a media piece. As David Gordon (1999) explains: “Often, reporters are unaware of their own perceptual biases or motivations (and) may unconsciously seek to interview only those who are well-dressed, seem rational, appear to be articulate – or who are conveniently located.” [86]

While the concept of objectivity may be unrealistic, some think it is actually undesirable. David Detmer (1995) for example, argues an interesting point, saying that the unrealistic ‘clamour for objectivity’ actually prevents reporting which may offer an alternative, subjective view and challenge the status quo. Detmer argues that objectivity is in fact simply the majority view proposing that “conclusions which conform to a social consensus are seen as ‘objective’ because they do not stand out as requiring scrutiny”. [87]

3.2 Context

Contextualising news is an important but often missing part of contemporary news reporting. In terms of reporting around a war, this could include reminding viewers and readers of how power balances have shifted over the years so that once allied regimes are now branded as enemies. Likewise, valuable political context, about what a State has to gain from war, over and above the righteousness of the moral high-ground would provide valuable background.

John MacArthur (2001) publisher of Harper’s Magazine identifies this as a particular problem for the United States. He explains: “Americans live in a perpetual present. This is the country with the shortest attention span in the civil world, and it is a cultural problem. We don’t know anything that happened 6 months ago much less 20 years ago when we supported the Afghan resistance and Bin Laden against the Soviet Union. No one remembers that we were Saddam´s ally and supporter during the Iran-Iraq war. Nobody remembers.” [88]

The continual flow of short news pieces, although big in quantity can be short on quality and are unable to relay deeper meaning and context. As Philip Taylor (2003) comments on TV coverage of the Iraq war: “Discerning the truth is complicated, if anything, by the incessant television coverage from Iraq; news comes in so fast that we barely have time to evaluate its wider meaning before the next images fire in.” [89]

Noam Chomsky in Necessary Illusions (1989) argues that the very structure of the media is designed to induce conformity to established doctrine. Chomsky says: “In a three-minute stretch between commercials, or in seven hundred words, it is impossible to present unfamiliar thoughts or surprising conclusions with the argument and evidence required to afford them some credibility. Regurgitation of welcome pieties faces no such problem.” [90]

These welcome pieties, form what Chomsky calls “the basic presuppositions of discourse”. In the case of the US, these include the assumption that foreign policy is guided by a benevolent “yearning for democracy” in the face of aggressors. [91] These presuppositions allow the media to gloss over uncomfortable facts and to paint out grey areas. Grey areas which would require deeper explanations and would risk boring or unsettling viewers who are seeking an instant news summary and confirmation of their belief system.

News segments are designed to be short, sharp and sexy and to educate the audience instantaneously. To help meet this objective, news reporting may be sensationalised so that its messages are more obvious and immediately digestible. In any number of news items, consumers are given a black and white version of grey reality where selected facts paint an impactful, morally simplistic picture.

The two sides of the story are given extreme positions and pitched against each other to leave the audience associated with the positive stereotype feeling righteous. This applies whether it is a celebrity divorce, where one partner is depicted as the saint and one the sinner, or a war.

3.3 Media Bias

Context, or lack of it, is therefore a key factor in media bias. However, it is important to stress that bias and distortion in media reports, is not just about the presence of false information, it is also about their absence.

A 2001 report by media watchdog, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting [92], found that the evening newscasts of the three commercial broadcast networks in the US (ABC, CBS and NBC) had deliberately avoided discussing the effects of bombings of civilians in the 2001 Afghanistan war. The study claimed that network journalists failed to inquire about the numbers of casualties, nor did they discuss the legal implications of these bombings. Instead, they communicated the civilian casualties as a regrettable but justifiable consequence of America’s military retaliation or as unverifiable Afghan propaganda.

The report concludes: “When media portray reports of civilian casualties as an attack on America, it’s hardly surprising that serious reporting on the issue is scarce. It is crucial that news outlets independently investigate civilian casualties in Afghanistan – not only how many there have been, but how and why they happened.”

David Detmer (1995) provides a further example of information absence in the form of US media coverage of Iran. Detmer says: “Pro-US government bias running through mass media coverage of Iran is manifested not so much in the presence of false information – that is in lies and erroneous misstatements of fact, though both of these undoubtedly do occur – as in the absence of essential information needed to make (accurate) sense of the subject at hand. The problem, in short, is primarily one of omission, rather than commission.” [93]

The absence of relevant facts is harder to address than the presence of falsehoods. The latter at least carries the promise of legal recourse for aggrieved parties, for example via domestic legislation for libel or slander.

The media’s attribution of the source of stories is also problematic because as long as the media attribute their story to a source and quote that source accurately, they are being ‘truthful’. It could be argued that a journalist or media outlet does not have the resources or time to cross-check every single report or quote given to them by an official spokesperson and that to do so would hinder the news-making process so much as to make it commercially uncompetitive.

According to David Gordon (1999), attribution is not an acceptable media practise without verification of the facts, says Gordon, “the media . have the responsibility to assess the validity or truth of the information they disseminate . (to) allow readers, listeners and viewers to reach their own conclusions.” [94]

The implications of such one-sided, albeit ‘honest’ reporting, can be significant. An example of this is the 1988 shooting of an Iranian civilian airliner by an American warship, the USS Vincennes. All of the claims made at the time by the US government and therefore by the US media which reported their statements, are now known to be false. [95] Detmer comments:

“The most objectionable feature of the mass media’s coverage of the Vincennes incident is not inaccuracy, for, as a result of the mass media’s use of attribution, the great bulk of that coverage was, in the strictest sense, accurate. The biggest problem was the failure to present any information that would undermine the government’s story or at least to suggest that it was dubitable.” [96]

However, this is an area of media ethics about which there is debate. Daniel Hallin (1994) for example, sees attribution not as a violation of duty, but as a positive norm of media ethics. Talking of the Vietnam war he says: “It was not simply the use of official sources which gave officials so much influence over news content. It was the fact that the norms of objective journalism required the journalist to pass on official information without comment on its accuracy or relevance.” [97]

3.4 News branding

Media’s role as government inquisitor applies not just to the substance of facts but also to the descriptive terms used in describing factual incidents.

The September 11 attacks were immediately described by the President of the United States, the British Prime Minister and many other government officials as an attack ‘on civilisation’ or ‘the civilized world’. This metaphor was immediately reiterated by the world’s media, not as an attributable quote, but as a factual piece of information. [98] Representatives of Hollywood’s major studios and television networks met with a White House delegation in November 2001 and agreed on six themes they could address in future productions including “the September 11 attacks were an attack against civilization and require a global response” [99].

The bare facts however, were that it was an attack on New York and Washington. The term ‘civilisation’, used as a metaphor for the Western world, was used emotively and inaccurately.

The word civilisation is used in a legal context in the ICCPR, but not as a dividing line between cultures, rather as an inclusive acknowledgement of different cultural systems to which the 152 State parties to the ICCPR belong. Article 31 of the ICCPR states: “In the election of the Committee, consideration shall be given to equitable geographical distribution of membership and to the representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems.”

The same applies to the ‘war on terrorism’ descriptor adopted by the US administration. This led to the branding of related news coverage using similar terms including ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ and ‘War Against Terror’, used by the three major US networks [100]. An example of such packaging is CNN’s use of a ‘war against terror’ logo in the weeks running up to the Iraq war [101].

The use of the logo during news segments relating to the then-impending Iraq war, suggested firstly that this was a war with assumed legitimacy (how could anyone not be against terror?) and secondly that there were established links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11 attacks. All before any content of the news items was presented or analysed.

The ICHRP (2002) has expressed concern over such usage saying: “Many media adopted without question the tag ‘war against terrorism’ in relation to the 2001 US attacks on Afghanistan. Yet a moment’s reflection shows that the phrase is so imprecise as to be meaningless.For journalists to use such terminology is an abdication of their professional responsibility to report and explain.” [102]

This branding of news and the use of logos to aid public understanding and marketing of the news media, blurs the lines between entertainment programming and traditional news reporting. Danny Schechter (2003) comments: “Sensation-driven cable news limits analytical journalism and in-depth issue-oriented coverage.” [103]

Where it may be commercially acceptable to offer this style of news reporting, you could argue that a caveat to the programmes should be produced saying that a full presentation of facts is not realistic in such news reporting and that some of the stories may be therefore be misrepresented. Just as the BBC prefixes some broadcasts with ‘our reporter is subject to reporting restrictions’ when a journalists is embedded with troops (see section 3.6 below).

Claude Moisy, quoted in the ICHRP’s Challenge of Human Rights Reporting (2002), stresses the importance of differentiating between advocacy journalism, information journalism, entertainment journalism and promotional journalism in this way, saying that “nothing is more dangerous for freedom of information in the world, than to assign to the news media any other responsibility than to report the facts as well as possible.” [104]

3.5 Public right versus public appetite

While the result of such news presentation may be a public which is misinformed and ignorant, there is much evidence to show that while the public have a theoretical right to information, they do not necessarily have an appetite for it.

Civil society on the one hand cries out in defiance of censorship and demands the truth, but on the other hand rejects that truth when it is told. Section 1.2 above provides one example, three more follow:

  • Phillip Knightly in his book “The First Casualty” (2000) tells of an incident in the Vietnam War when in August 1965, CBS showed a harrowing documentary depicting US Marines turning their flamethrowers on a village. The footage included Vietnamese children and elderly couples pleading for their homes to be spared. Commenting on the result of the broadcast, Knightly says: “CBS’s switchboard was jammed with calls from viewers attacking the film as a piece of Communist propaganda abetting the enemy’s cause, a viewer reaction that must have made CBS think twice about using films of a similar sort again.” [105]
  • Knightly provides another example, this time from the first Gulf war: “The military and American and British governments realised from their polls that the public knew that the news from the Gulf was being censored – and almost eighty percent thought that this was a good idea. In fact, nearly sixty percent thought that the authorities should exert more control over the coverage of the war.” [106]
  • Finally, Morrison and Tumber provide an example from the Falklands War concerning an early evening news bulletin which had reported the funeral of Argentine seamen killed in British attacks: “The BBC switchboard received many calls from the public criticising the ‘undue reverence’ of the report.” [107]

A sizeable part of the public are perhaps unwilling to take responsibility for what their governments’ are doing in their name. As Knightly concludes: “Images of civilian death and destruction violated this silent agreement between the government and their public – go to war as long as its quick, neat and with no blood.” This is reinforced by Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell’s (1992) propaganda theory. This holds that there are two kinds of propaganda. In the first, the audience believes a propagandist regarding their spoken intent, and is unaware of hidden messages. However in the second case, mutual reciprocity occurs when the propagandist exploits an audience’s beliefs or values to fan the fires of prejudice or self interest. “The audience’s needs – the reinforcement of prejudicial or self-serving attitudes – get fulfilled and spoken, but the persuader’s needs – the attainment of a selfish end through the audience’s compliance – get fulfilled but not spoken.” [108]

It is this latter form of propaganda which gives rise to the ‘silent agreement’, which allows the audience to take comfort from media representations of good forces against evil and which absolves them from looking at the implications of a war they are supporting.

But does the public have a right to be protected from such images? Kevin Williams (1992) notes that wars prosecuted in a democratic society are done so in the name of the citizens of that democracy and those citizens are therefore responsible for the consequences of that war. “Surely one of the responsibilities in wartime is to see – or at least be provided with the opportunity to see – the price being paid to prosecute the war, whether this is the body of your neighbour’s son or innocent civilians killed in the crossfire” [109].

Furthermore, international human rights standards require the public to be educated about the universality of human rights norms, allowing them to see all of humanity as deserving of a common minimum standard of rights and to realise the implications when those rights are not respected [110]. Thus in human rights terms, ignorance is not bliss. As Pastor Martin Niemöller, imprisoned by the Nazis, famously said [111]:

“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Next they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

The implication of these words is that international human rights standards require a common responsibility, which is embodied by the basic principles of human rights education.

3.6 Role of government

Under the various UN Human Rights treaties, States carry the responsibility for ensuring freedom of the press. This has a legal basis in for example Article 19 of the ICCPR on freedom of opinion and expression and article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) [112] which concerns the right to take part in cultural life including steps necessary for “the diffusion of science and culture”.

Meanwhile article 2 of the CIRC requires freedom of the press in its acknowledgement that:

“The professional responsibility of correspondents and information agencies requires them to report facts without discrimination and in their proper context and thereby to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to further international understanding and co-operation and to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

However, supporting the right to freedom of the press is often in conflict with the aims of the state, which may wish to dominate media output to protect state power. Government control is of paramount importance in time of war when continued support for the war concerned, and ultimately therefore victory, can depend on media and public opinion. However, it is at exactly this time when the media can be dependent on government for access to information about the said war.

The dilemma facing media who want this access is played out in the roles of unilateral versus embedded reporters, whereby the embedded reporters exchange their independence for access to information and army protection, while unilateral reporters enjoy both the benefits and disadvantages of going it alone.

One of the most famous unilateral reporters, Robert Fisk, has been criticised by embedded journalists for jeopardising media access through disobeying army instructions. For example in the first Gulf war, Fisk discovered that fighting remained in the Iraqi town of Khafji long after the allies claimed it was liberated. He was harshly criticised by an NBC-TV pool reporter of whom Fisk said: “For the NBC reporter, however, the privileges of the pool and the military rules attached to it were more important than the right of journalists to do their job.” [113]

The alleged control of embedded reporters by government officials also offers them protection from less favourable treatment metered out to unilateral reporters. The International Press Institute (2003) claims that it was “alarmed at the vast number of press freedom violations in cases where non-embedded journalists were harassed, detained, had their equipment confiscated, were fired upon, and in many cases deported.” [114]

For some journalists, being on side with government troops is revealed through use of the word “we” when reporting troop activity, as has been widely reported in relation to embedded journalists [115]. Other journalists are explicit in their support for the government. In the Iraq war 2003 for example, Fox news took an openly pro-war stance in its new output, despite its seemingly ironic strapline of “We report, You decide” [116]. During the conflict, Oliver North an embedded commentator for Fox News said: “You’re an American before you’re a journalist.” [117]

For media reporters who do not comply, governmental pressure can encourage their cooperation. Paul McMasters of the Freedom Forum comments: “Federal officials, after all, have what journalists need: the news. A journalist’s usefulness to her news organization flames out if she burns a source by complaining about the ground rules, let alone resists abiding by them: Sources dry up, phone calls go unreturned, questions go unrecognised, and requests for interviews rot in the in-box.” [118]

This pressure can also be more severe such as extreme criticism of journalists by government officials. For example during the Falklands conflict in 1982, Conservative MP John Page accused BBC2’s Newsnight journalist Peter Snow of making comments which ‘verged on treason’, after Snow weighed up Argentinean and British official statements to establish which were more credible. [119] During the same period, Morrison and Tumber (1988) report that BBC’s Chairman and Director General designate were ‘roughed up’ and ‘roasted alive’ by more than 100 Conservative members at a meeting of the backbench Conservative Party Media Group. [120]

What is clear, is that governments rely on a combination of tactics to relay their side of the story through the media. These include:

  • Criticism of the media
  • The use of embedded reporters and media pools, which Paul Lagasse of the Digital Freedom Network (2002) says “reflects the administration’s determination to provide citizens with a centrally controlled, carefully crafted image” [121]
  • The use of stage-managed press conferences and photo opportunities.

With the prevalence of television, such imagery can be hugely impactful but, by nature of the bite-sized news briefs discussed above, can often mask the true reality of the events they report. During the Iraq war 2003, the US administration applied itself to the stage managing of images for television, from the $250,000 set at the United States Central Command forward headquarters in Doha, Qatar [122] to the dramatic PR images of April 9th 2003 when US troops pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Fardus Square, Baghdad.

The BBC’s six o clock news programme described the falling of the statue as a “momentous event” [123], British newspapers were filled with pictures and reports of “the jubilation in Baghdad” [124] and BBC News Online reported “jubilant scenes in Baghdad’s main square as crowds of Iraqis gathered to celebrate” and “an unprecedented show of disdain for Saddam Hussein”. BBC News Online reported emotively that “as the image of the Iraqi leader tumbled to the ground the decades of pain and anger welled up and the crowd surged forward to jump on the statue to smash it to pieces.” [125]

April 9th 2003: Long shot photograph shows Fardus Square, Baghdad as US troops pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein. “Hailed as an equivalent of the Berlin Wall falling but more akin to a carefully constructed media event tailored for the television cameras.”

Photo and annotation from Independent Media Centre







April 9th 2003: Close-up image of Saddam Hussein’s statue which accompanied stories of jubilant Iraqis.


According to the Independent Media Centre (2003) the close-up action video of the statue being destroyed was broadcast around the world as proof of a massive uprising. However still photos revealed a long-shot view of Fardus Square:

“It’s empty save for the U.S. Marines, the International Press, and a small handful of Iraqis. There are no more than 200 people in the square at best. The Marines have the square sealed off and guarded by tanks. A US mechanized vehicle is used to pull the statue of Saddam from its base.

“The entire event is being hailed as an equivalent of the Berlin Wall falling… but even a quick glance of the long-shot photo shows something more akin to a carefully constructed media event tailored for the television cameras.” [126]

According to Laura Miller of PR Watch (2002), as well as stage managed photo calls like the one above, the Bush administration has also used outright disinformation to bolster the case for war. In December 2001 for example, CBS 60 Minutes interviewed a former CIA agent who refuted the allegation that September 11 airplane hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official several months before the deadly attacks on September 11.

However, according to the CBS report, “despite a lack of evidence that the meeting took place the item was cited by administration officials as high as Vice President Dick Cheney and ended up being reported so widely that two-thirds of Americans polled by the Council on Foreign Relations believe Iraq was behind the terrorist attacks of 9/11.” [127]

Thus misinformation and war propaganda can influence the attitudes and misperceptions of a whole nation.

Although the above example indicates that the mass media is able to influence the general public, it is worth noting that the effect that good, bad or indifferent reporting has on its consumers is an area of ongoing debate.

Media Effects author, Sonia Livingstone, (1997) comments: “Despite the volume of research, the debate about media effects – whether it can be shown empirically that specific mass media messages, typically those transmitted by television, have specific, often detrimental effects on the audiences who are exposed to them – remains unresolved.” [128]

Similarly the power of television in wartime has been hotly debated. The Vietnam war for example is renowned as the war in which media caused a backlash of public opinion as a result of graphic news coverage. However, there is a different side to this story as Phillip Knightly (2000) explains: “.a survey conducted for Newsweek in 1967 suggested a remarkably different conclusion: that television had encouraged a majority of viewers to support the war.” [129]

However, if substantiable, the media effects implications of war propaganda are significant, leading to an audience mindset, at the foundation of which is fear. George Gerbner (1995) claims for example that “images of conflict, violence, and terror, presented without historical perspective and balance, evoke irrational fears and fuel fires of vengeance and repression, further exacerbating the invisible crises upon us.” [130]

3.7 Censorship of media by media

Who carries the responsibility for fair and accurate reporting? Is it the journalists themselves, their editors or media owners and what is the impact of stakeholders such as consumers and advertisers? The different motivations and pressures applied to the media in censorship of wartime news is therefore a complex one, involving different actors and ethical frameworks.

The interplay between all these groups means that the final media output has been influenced by a manifold of different sources, and therefore holding the individual author to moral or legal account for an act of omission or commission may not be realistic.

John MacArthur (2003) believes the Iraq War 2003 was “the most self-censored war in history”, saying: “95% of the war coverage was beside the point. It had nothing to do with the war. It was trucks rolling down the highway . boxes being loaded and unloaded, GIs talking about feeling lonely.” [131]

Journalists may opt for self-censorship for a variety of reasons including personal loyalty as an embedded reporter, patriotism, to best-ensure promotion, or simply from a weight of official pressure. CNN’s top war correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, commented on the Iraq war that “my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.” [132]

Many media proprietors are guilty of censoring their journalist’s work and opinions. For example in the Iraq war 2003, MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield was openly critical of the war’s sanitised media coverage. The “Hollywood Reporter” noted that NBC News president Neal Shapiro “has taken correspondent Ashleigh Banfield to the woodshed” for a speech in which she criticized the networks for portraying the Iraq war as “glorious and wonderful”. An official NBC spokesperson later told the press, “She and we both agreed that she didn’t intend to demean the work of her colleagues, and she will choose her words more carefully in the future.” [133]

Meanwhile pro-government media apply pressure by rallying against media which display rebel tendencies. For example The Sun newspaper in the UK turned on the BBC, Guardian and Mirror during the Falklands conflict, accusing the Mirror and BBC of treason because of their war reporting. [134] Speaking also of the Falklands, Phillip Knightly (2000), comments: “Some newspapers contributed as a matter of policy. They supported the government all the way, even to the extent of attacking other newspapers or television programmes that expressed the slightest reservation about Britain’s actions. This helped create a climate in which to dissent was little short of treason.” [135]

The flip side to the resistance of censorship is the desire for censorship, with some journalists preferring explicit censorship rather than self-censorship at their own discretion. Kevin Williams (1992) discusses the Vietnam war, in which it is widely believed there was less formal censorship than in other wars. An increase in self-censorship during the war, he says, proved that many journalists preferred censorship being “uncomfortable with taking the responsibility for what they wrote.” [136]

An added factor in the desire for censorship is that ironically censorship can increase access to information for media workers. As Drew Middleton, military correspondent of the New York Times, wrote in 1972: “As long as all copy was submitted to censors before transmission, people in the field, from generals down, felt free to discuss top secret materials with reporters. On three trips to Vietnam, I found generals and everyone else far more wary of talking to reporters precisely because there was no censorship.” [137]

3.8 Commercial concerns

The unattractiveness of ‘un-newsworthy’ information and the short, sharp format of news coverage, both prohibit the contextualising of news output and are largely governed by commercial concerns. The need to satisfy an audience with a short attention span and to maximise audience numbers and advertising revenue can therefore be barriers to accurate reporting.

With commercial factors taking prevalence, Kevin Williams (1992) comments that in a competitive mass media market “truth must take second place to the swift production of copy” [138].

The ICHRP (2002) has expressed its concern over the influence of commercial factors in journalism, saying: “Driven by new technologies and the lure of lucrative mass markets, media owners are themselves guilty of upsetting the balance of interest between journalism as an instrument of democracy and its exploitation as a tradable commodity.” [139]

Commercial censorship also threatens freedom of the media, whereby the means of communication are controlled by a handful of multi-billion dollar organisations, leaving information output in the overall control of a small number of individuals.

Cable television in the United States has consolidated dramatically, with just a few companies controlling most of the industry, dominated by Comcast and Time Warner. According to the Centre for Digital Democracy US government agency the FCC stands accused of weakening cable ownership safeguards and planning measures, which will permit further control by even fewer companies. [140]

A further example of this media monopolisation is lobbying by media giants in the US to take control of the electromagnetic spectrum. This means that a selected number of companies would have complete control over which media are able to broadcast, rather than the electromagnetic system being owned by governments on behalf of their citizens. [141]

Danny Schechter (2003) draws a parallel between the benefits media businesses are likely to gain from new FCC rules and media support for government policies. Schechter comments: “Is it unthinkable to suggest that big media companies who stand to make windfall profits once . FCC chief Michael Powell, engineers rules that permit more media mergers and concentration . would . want to appease and please (the) administration?” [142]

Whatever the sources of censorship and distortion and whomever is culpable, war propaganda and its tools of censorship and misinformation undoubtedly distort factual reporting. The effect is the potential violation and undermining of a range of human rights which will be discussed in the next chapter.

Chapter 4: War propaganda and the denial of specific rights

“Peace is the underlying condition for the full observance of human rights and war is their negation.” [143]

Resolution on Human Rights in Armed Conflict  International Conference on Human Rights 1968

As discussed in chapter 2, many of the rights that war propaganda limits are derogable in a state of emergency. Governments can therefore argue that they have a legitimate right in wartime to limit the extent of such rights. However, this is perhaps harder to justify where those rights are directly infringed as a result of war propaganda. The HRC declared the prohibition of war propaganda to be non-derogable (chapter 2). Therefore rights infringed as a result of an illegal act (i.e. derogating from a non-derogable right) can not necessarily be excused by simply saying the rights concerned are derogable. The use of war propaganda has a direct and detrimental effect on the upholding of specific rights such as freedom of information, as propaganda can clearly limit the availability of objective and impartial information to which citizens are entitled. In addition, many other rights are indirectly jeopardised because of climate which war propaganda creates.

4.1 Freedom of Information and Expression

The rights most obviously at risk from war propaganda are the rights to freedom of information and freedom of expression. These rights are inextricably connected: without the freedom to express information, there can be no access to a diversity of information sources. Likewise, without the freedom to access information, creative thought and the formulation of one’s opinion based on the availability of a wide range of information is not possible. Articles in several human rights instruments are specifically concerned with the free distribution of information.

  • Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) outline rights fundamental to enjoying the full distribution of information within society, namely freedom of thought, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • As the first major human rights instrument of the post-war era, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, the UDHR, has since been elaborated in a variety of thematic human rights treaties. These include the ICCPR and ICESCR which have been ratified by 151 and 148 States respectively [144], giving them widespread support within the international community.
  • The key article in the ICCPR is Article 19 which states that “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
  • The International Convention on the Rights of the Child also emphasises freedom of information in article 13, which states: “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.”

Freedom of information and expression are a vital component for the realisation of other rights. For example, without access to information on political parties, and the ability of political parties to express their opinions, a democratic voting system can not operate. Article 25 of the ICCPR therefore talks about “guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.” Similarly, access to information is a prerequisite of the right to education outlined in article 13 of the ICESCR. There is also an emphasis on sharing of information at an international level, noted by the article’s reference to education enabling “all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.” It is clear however that in the case of war propaganda, the aim of governments is to restrict access to information about, for example, civilian casualties of the enemy side. So although such casualties may be given extensive coverage by the media of the opposing party, there is certainly no home government encouragement to share such information internationally, let alone to encourage the “understanding, tolerance and friendship” just mentioned.

4.2 Freedom of information: war propaganda’s effects

Examples of how war propaganda can inhibit the rights to freedom of information include pre-war rallying in which governments present a one-sided view of the benefits of war as part of their approval strategy for proposed military action. This can includes bias, limited information, the inclusion of falsehoods or unsubstantiated rumour in official documents concerning the enemy. Access to full and objective facts is therefore denied with the result that citizens and the media may support a war which they would otherwise question. Governments then continue to restrict the free flow of information during and following war. This can include the failure to report civilian casualties or those of allied troops, so that the war appears ‘clean’ and more palatable to its supporters. For example in the Iraq war 2003, critics accused the coalition of attempting to minimize bad publicity in an extended and difficult war [145]. Julian Borger of The Guardian found US military casualties to be “more than twice the number most Americans have been led to believe because of an extraordinary high number of accidents, suicides and other non-combatant deaths.” [146] Meanwhile the body bags of deceased troops are “sanitized by the US Administration as `transfer tubes'”, reports Tim Harper [147].

Similarly Coalition forces have not tracked civilian casualty figures in Iraq, saying it is too difficult to keep such information accurate and up-to-date. However according to Iraq Body Count there are over 21,000 civilian deaths as of May 2005. [148] Access to information on the home governments role and culpability in war time is therefore severely restricted with severe implications for international justice, including that war crimes may not be exposed. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for example, claims that because the United States has been such a dominating force in the Iraq War 2003 “there has yet to be video showing a bloody defeat of an Army unit or a news account of a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention.” [149]

4.3 Marginalising the voice of dissent

War propaganda is designed to ensure maximum support for war. As such it exerts pressure on those opposed to war, by using the language of “you’re with us or against us”. Dissenters can be labeled as ‘with the enemy’ and traitors to their country. Furthermore, dissenters are portrayed as outsiders who have chosen to reject the common good and whom are therefore deserving of their marginalisation. Paul Gilbert (1992) explains that those who dissent “are taken to have excluded themselves from the community by declining to exhibit the will to be part of it . This is seen as justifying the deprivation of some of the rights of membership, which serve as a warning of the consequences of hopeless opposition.” [150] Dissenters may therefore be less willing or able to air their views due to factors including the perceived disapproval of popular opinion, being publicly discredited by officials or having lack of access to media willing to carry their views. This could apply to members of the public, journalists, academics and politicians. Daniel Hallin (1994) has theorized three regions of journalism [151]: In the first, the “sphere of consensus”, journalists do not present opposing views and “act as advocates of consensus values”. In the second realm is the “sphere of legitimate controversy where objective journalism reigns supreme”. In the third category lie the views “which journalists and the political mainstream . reject as unworthy of being heard”. It is in this category which anti-war views are traditionally held. This results in the denial of a full spectrum of opinion and available views, skewing opinion to that of the government. However even where two opposing views are given, this may still not be enough. David Detmer (1995) outlines the ‘both sides’ ideology whereby journalists invite debate by illustrating two sides of a story. Detmer comments “Members of the audience.are not encouraged to consider the possibility that both sides might share important points in common and that these points might be precisely those standing most in need of being challenged” [152] In human rights terms, this failure to give access to all views is not justifiable. The importance of this diversity of view, relating specifically to the discrediting of dissenting voices, is expressed in article 5 of the Declaration on Contribution of the Mass Media which states: “In order to respect freedom of opinion, expression and information and in order that information may reflect all points of view, it is important that the points of view presented by those who consider that the information published or disseminated about them has seriously prejudiced their effort to . counter . incitement to war be disseminated.”

“Controlling the voice of dissent can be insidious, for example in societal pressure from simple disapproval of peers or colleagues to the threat or application of sanctions.”

However, in order to have views disseminated there needs to be media access, but as Edward Herman (1992) explains a “greatly underrated constraint on freedom of speech is dissenters’ lack of access to the mass media, and thus to the general public. Their freedom is in an important sense only a personal freedom with limited public and social significance.” [153] Hollywood actors have been affected by mass media access, with the organizers of the 2003 Oscars drawing up a blacklist of people who were not allowed a platform to air anti-war views. “Meryl Streep, Sean Penn, Vanessa Redgrave, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman and Spike Lee are among those who will not be speaking, amid fears they could turn the ceremony into an anti-war rally” commented Annette Witheridge of the Scotsman. [154] The freedom of expression allowed to dissenting opinions has come under immense pressure since the September 11 attacks, particularly in the US which prides itself on its First Amendment [155]. Stephen John Hartnett in his article on US civil liberties (2002) notes that “In the weeks following the attacks, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warned that “all Americans need to watch what they say, watch what they do,” thus making it clear that free speech is no longer so free in a time of what the government may define as ‘war’. ” [156] Hartnett continues with another example: “Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General John Ashcroft argued that those who dare criticize the government “only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.” Controlling the voice of dissent can also be more insidious, for example in societal pressure from simple disapproval of peers or colleagues to the threat or application of sanctions. Edward Herman (1992) comments: “The tendency to stifle serious dissent has been aggravated by a dominant US culture that has never been tolerant of `deviance`. This gives the state a freedom to repress upon slight and/or fabricated provocation. It means also that informal and less severe forms of reprisal can constrain dissent.” [157] Loss of one’s job, or the threat of it, is an example of this ‘informal reprisal’. The Screen Actors Guild has compared treatment of anti-war celebrities with the witch-hunts of the McCarthy era saying “Some have recently suggested that well-known individuals who express ‘unacceptable’ views should be punished by losing their right to work.” [158] This includes Martin Sheen who admitted that “TV executives had warned him his role in The West Wing could be threatened if his head stays above the parapet” and Sean Penn who claims producer Steve Bing sacked him from a proposed film because of his anti-war stance. In March 2003, war reporter Peter Arnett was sacked by NBC after he claimed that American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces. Arnett claims that NBC came under “great commercial pressure from the outside” to fire him. [159] Public hostility, which can result from a perceived rightness of the majority view promoted by war propaganda, can also discourage alternative voices. According to John MacArthur of Harpers Magazine (2001): “When it turns to war, when it turns to foreign policy crisis . there isn’t . the sense that the patriotic thing to do is to tell the American people the truth and to try to be as impartial as possible and not to be the cats paw of the government. But when I say this on TV the reaction is overwhelming, there is tremendous hostility to the free press in this country.” [160] Another journalist, war reporter Chris Hedges, had a similar experience. Hedges spoke at the commencement ceremonies at Rockford College in May 2003, but when he suggested that the United States was wrong to invade Iraq, some members of the audience began heckling him. His microphone was unplugged twice and he eventually cut short his speech and left the campus accompanied by security guards. [161] As the Iraq War 2003 progressed, further examples of this pervasive pressure came to light. Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines told a crowd at a London Dixie Chicks concert that “we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas”. South Carolina legislators subsequently passed a bill declaring those words to be ‘unpatriotic’, disc jockeys organized rallies at which tractors were used to destroy Dixie Chicks CDs, radio stations declared themselves ‘Chicks free’ and there were calls for boycotts of the group’s upcoming concert tour. [162] John Nichols of The Madison Capital Times (2003) comments: “There was a clear signal coming from the entertainment industry in general, and the music industry in particular, about what happens when artists speak out.” [163] Commenting on the Dixie Chicks ban, Bruce Springsteen said: “The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that (the USA) is about – namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home.” [164] And so the public themselves, just as they can be unwilling to see the full impact of war, can also be a party to suppressing the dissenting opinion which would otherwise bring that full picture to light.

4.4 Right to Peaceful Assembly

Article 21 of the ICCPR states that:

“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Under article 21, it is possible for measures to be taken to compromise the right to peaceful assembly, on the basis of it being “necessary . in the interests of . public safety, public order”, for example due to the health and safety implications of large crowd numbers. In early 2003, critics accused the US government of clamping down on anti-war demonstrations in the run-up to the war on Iraq. The New York Police Department produced a ‘Criminal Intelligence Section Demonstration Debriefing Form’ which was used by officers to quiz arrested activists about their group membership, views on the Middle East, and whereabouts on September 11, 2001. Answers were entered into a computer database. First Amendment lawyers learned of the practice in early April 2003, calling it invasive and chilling. [165] The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) released a report “Arresting Protest,” in Aprl 2003 expressing its concerns about police handling of anti-war marches in New York City. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman claimed that:

On February 15, the NYPD engaged in the massive interference with peaceful protest, starting with the denial of a permit to march; excessive use of force, including the use of horses to charge into crowds of peaceful demonstrators and the use of pepper spray on people simply trying to get to the rally; and pervasive constitutional violations of those arrested, including political interrogations (and) denial of access to counsel.” [166] The right to peaceful assembly is threatened by a climate of war propaganda, as part of government desire to silence the voice of dissent. By making it difficult, uncomfortable and personally threatening to engage in protect activities, the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, both of which are essential components of peaceful protest, are compromised. There is a clear link theoretical between the violation of these rights and the use of war propaganda, because a function of war propaganda is to alienate protestors and make it socially, morally and politically acceptable to silence their views.

4.5 Freedom from discrimination

Article 2, paragraph 1 of the ICCPR states: “Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The effects of war propaganda however are inherently discriminatory. In order to ‘make the enemy thoroughly hated’ and predispose the public to war, the enemy must be characterised as worthy of destruction. This can lead to the production of caricatures and stereotyping of the enemy as evil, bestial and unpredictable. Examples of this are given above in the case of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum on Cuba (page 4), caricatures during the first Gulf war (page 8) and comments by the Arab American Institute on post-September 11 discrimination (page 28).

The result is the breeding of prejudice, distrust and hostility in the minds of domestic citizens and officials due to a lack of information about the enemy leadership, peoples and culture. This prejudice is not just confined to thoughts about the enemy in a far away land, but can produce acts of discrimination at home against members of these populations who are resident there. The National Immigration Forum (2002) for example, reported that the US Justice Department announced it would track down and interview 5,000 Arabs in the US after the 11 September attacks. “They were interviewed not because they were suspected of having a connection to terrorism, but because they were Arab, in a certain age range, and newly arrived in the US” [167]. Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s Secretary General has condemned propaganda which targets whole communities and incites discrimination. Khan says: “Because of the real or alleged actions of a few individuals, entire communities – identified by race, religion or national origin – are being viewed with suspicion. The result is growing unease and uncertainty among large sections of the population. Racial profiling and detention of immigrants in the USA, and labelling of refugees and asylum-seekers as “terrorists” in Europe have compounded the stigmatization. “In a climate of increasing xenophobia and racism, asylum-seekers are being sent back to face imprisonment, torture or death and violent attacks on members of minority communities are on the increase. Whipping up public fears in the interests of short-term political or electoral gains is a dangerous business.” [168] The implications of propaganda in the war against terrorism therefore impact not only on the right of freedom from discrimination, but lead indirectly to “torture or death and violent attacks”. War propaganda can literally mean life and death – and not just in terms of war casualties.

4.6 Press Freedom

The right to a free press is guaranteed by the combination of various other rights. These include:

  • Freedom of information and expression (ICCPR article 19) which includes the “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas . either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”;
  • The right to freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity (ICESCR article 15) which could involve the sharing and development of ideas through for example scientific journals;
  • The right to be protected from unlawful attacks on honour and reputation (ICCPR article 17) which could include a free press with channels of recourse and correction for distorted reporting.

The ICHRP (2002) sums up the right to a free press thus:

“Freedom of the media is itself a human right. At stake are two sets of rights: that of the media to report and express opinions as they see fit and that of the people to accurate and critical information regarding the actions of those in power. Other rights may be involved too – for example, those of opposition politicians who need the media to disseminate their opinions. In theory – and to a large extent in practice – the freedom of the media to go about their business without interference is held to guarantee all these interlocking rights.” [169] So, just as the prohibition of war propaganda is able to protect a range of rights including freedom of information and expression, so too press freedom also protects and supports such rights. The fact that press freedom is detrimentally affected by war propaganda illustrates the complex relationship between these rights, and the importance of securing and strengthening all the individual rights to provide a stronger framework for the whole. One of the roles of a free press could be to educate the public about its role, particularly in a state of emergency, when freedom of information is threatened. In this way it may be possible to confront the prejudice encountered by the ‘voice of dissent’ discussed above. War reporter, Peter Arnett, believes this is a valid role for the press. Arnett reported from the Iraqi side during the 1991 Gulf War and was heavily criticised. Phillip Knightly (2000) recounts: “On his return to the United States Arnett defended his role, saying that the media was partly to blame for the negative reaction because it had not educated the pubic about the function of a free press in wartime.” [170] The importance of freedom of the press can not be underestimated as a moderator of social injustice, including the use of war propaganda and its various messages. Denis McQuail (1997) notes that “the most practical instruments for protecting freedom and combating tyranny have involved using the means of communication to claim rights, criticise power-holders, advance alternatives.” [171] Indeed for human rights campaigning organisations such as Amnesty International, public awareness activity forms the backbone of their campaigning efforts.

4.7 Academic Freedom

As mentioned above, article 15 of the ICESCR requires State Parties to respect “the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity.” This has particularly important implications with regard to academic freedom, which includes for example freedom of choice of research, dissemination of findings, freedom to participate in professional bodies and freedom of opinion about the institution or system in which they work.

However, because academics have a valid role to play in challenging social norms and developing political, social and moral philosophies, they can be a threat to existing power structures. Janusz Symonides (1998) comments: “A thesis that the main functions of higher education include not only ‘reproduction’, consolidation of the status quo, but also the search for new solutions, change and reform of existing structures, political, economic and social, is far from being accepted in many countries.” [172] Academics make up a specific category of the voice of dissent and have been targeted as a result. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a report, which according to Stephen John Hartnett (2002) charged “academics who question either the causes of the war (in Afghanistan) or the means of its administration with undermining the nation’s moral resolve.” [173] The report Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It begins with a quote from Lynne Cheney. Cheney comments: “We need to understand that living in liberty is such a precious thing that generations of men and women have been willing to sacrifice everything for it. We need to know, in a war, exactly what is at stake.” The implication of this statement is that in wartime, some human rights are worth sacrificing to maintain ‘freedom’, including the right to freedom itself – in this case of of expression.

The report continues:

“While America’s elected officials from both parties and media commentators from across the spectrum condemned the (September 11) attacks and followed the President in calling evil by its rightful name, many faculty demurred. Some refused to make judgements. Many invoked tolerance and diversity as antidotes to evil. Some even pointed accusatory fingers, not at the terrorists but at America itself.” [174]

These observations were made by an academic institution whose mission is to ‘uphold high academic standards and safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus’ [175]. However, such unquestioning allegiance to government policy and failure to conduct analysis within the vital context discussed in chapter 3 above, only helps to create a climate in which academic freedom is not respected and in which citizens feel they have to take a clear-cut ‘for’ or ‘against’ stance. Meanwhile, students have also been affected by the climate of fear which has been generated around September 11 and the Iraq war. In April 2003, two students of Oakland High were discussing the war in Iraq. After making comments about the President of the United States, their teacher “didn’t consider it mere criticism, but a direct threat and she called the Secret Service”. [176]

A fellow teacher at the school, Larry Felson said: “When one of the students asked, ‘do we have to talk now? Can we be silent? Can we get legal council?’ they were told, ‘we own you, you don’t have any legal rights,'” Felson continues: “What we’re concerned about is academic freedom and that students have the right to free expression in the classroom. I don’t know if (the children will) say anything about anything ever again. Is that what we want? I don’t think we want that,” [177] These examples underline the importance of the points made under the section on marginalizing the voice of dissent and show a clear connection between a climate of war propaganda and violations of academic freedom. In the latter case, through a sense of deep-seated fear and distrust of those questioning the ‘party line’, which is highly likely to have been influenced by government statements and mass media reports.

4.8 Other rights

As the quote in section 4.5 above by Irene Khan of Amnesty International highlights, war propaganda has extremely severe repercussions for human rights. On first sight it may not appear that war propaganda could influence for example the “imprisonment, torture, death and violent attack” faced by the refoulement of refugees resulting from xenophobia. Another less obvious right affected by war propaganda is the right to a fair trial. However, this has been put at risk by a climate of government propaganda in the ‘war against terror’. In a press conference on 17 July 2003, President Bush referred to the ‘bad people’ [178] at Guantanomo Bay, having previously referred to them as ‘evil-doers’ [179].

The Guantanomo Bay prisoners, like all those imprisoned awaiting trial are innocent until proven guilty. However the worlds of President Bush violate the right to a fair trial as they pre-suppose the guilt of those detained. This is particularly significant in the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainees as the President is the last point of appeal for those going through the military tribunal process at Guantanamo. Through his words, he has already indicated that any appeal they make will likely be fruitless. The ultimate fate of those at Guantanamo Bay may be the death penalty, indicating the severity of such statements. The right to life is affected in other ways too, not least in collaboration with the right to press freedom, with the deaths of the many media who have lost their lives reporting war. There have been allegations that media ‘murders’ on the battlefield are used, in John Simpson’s words, as “the ultimate act of censorship” [180] in the war propaganda process. The International Press Institute (2003) says that “some observers claim that they had been targeted as media workers” [181] and reporter Robert Fisk (2003) said “I suspect they were killed because the US . decided to try to “close down” the press” [182]. An extremely grave charge which would violate both international human rights law and international humanitarian law under the Geneva Conventions. Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts contains measures of protection for journalists in Article 79. This states that “Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1”. As such the media is afforded special protection including “general protection against dangers arising from military operations” and they “shall not be the object of attack” [183]. The Iraq war has had tragic consequences for the media. According to Reporters Without Borders, by November 2003, two media assistants and 10 journalists had been killed with at least 10 journalists wounded. Press freedom and media organisations expressed outrage when in April 2003 US troops bombed the Baghdad office of the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera, killing one of its journalists. Reporters Without Borders commented that “To ensure the safety of its journalists, Al-Jazeera’s management has been careful to inform the Americans of the exact location of its crews right from the start of the war. The US army cannot therefore claim it did not know where the Baghdad offices were.” [184] The US were also accused of killing two TV cameramen when they fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where many foreign journalists were staying. Although US secretary of state Colin Powell claimed the attack was justified because it was in response to hostile fire, none of the dozens of journalists who witnessed the incident said they heard any shooting from the hotel or from nearby. [185] The ICHRP (2002) gives concern for media targets a final worrying twist. Under the genocide convention, governments are required to “prevent . direct and public incitement to commit genocide” [186] and article 3 of The International Convention concerning the Use of Broadcasting in the Cause of Peace (discussed in section 2.1) also requires states to “stop without delay the broadcasting within their respective territories of any transmission which to the detriment of good international understanding is of such a character as to incite the population of any territory to acts incompatible with the internal order or the security of a territory of a High Contracting Party.” [187] In light of this, the ICHRP in its examination of the controversial NATO bombing of Serb state television in 1999 comments: “An even broader question concerns the extent to which such actions may make all journalists even more vulnerable to the easy charge that they are propagandists for their governments and therefore legitimate targets in war.” [188]

Chapter 5: Conclusions

“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” [189]

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955

The progress of media coverage in the war against terror and the ongoing Iraq War reflects an ever-changing agenda in the reasons and marketing of war.

As Robert Fisk notes: “First it was to be a crusade. Then it became the “War for Civilization”. Then the “War without End”, Then the “War against Terror”.” [190] Although the war in Iraq was promoted as a prong in the war against terror, the link proved tenuous [191]. Yet the capure of Saddam Hussein is still widely promoted as a victory in the ‘war against terror’.

Meanwhile alleged economic motivations bubbled under the surface until in June 2003 the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz claimed that the real motive for war was that Iraq is “swimming” in oil [192]. He had previously alluded to weapons of mass destruction as being a “bureaucratic” excuse for war which “everyone could agree on”. [193] Meanwhile Sir Jonathan Porritt, head of the Sustainable Development Commission, which advises the UK government on ecological issues, said the prospect of winning access to Iraqi oil was “a very large factor” in the allies’ decision to attack Iraq in March. [194]

In the UK, the propaganda over the Iraq war 2003 culminated in the Hutton inquiry ‘into government spin’ [195] regarding the suicide of government advisor Kelly affair. In light of the Hutton inquiry, revelations by senior politicians such as Wolfowitz and the resignations of British MPs Claire Short and Robin Cook [196] over accusations of the UK Prime Minister misleading the public and parliament over the reasons for war, it would be pleasing to argue that tolerance of propaganda has diminished. And that there are real pressures to replace the centuries-old propaganda ‘black art’ with a system of transparency and accountability. Yet both George Bush and Tony Blair have recently been re-elected.

There is no doubt however, that such a change is long over due. The implications of war propaganda are enormously far reaching. It is no wonder therefore that the HRC proposed the prohibition of war propaganda as a non-derogable right, but a great wonder that its prohibition is so little publicised and discussed, let alone respected.

The issues surrounding the prohibition of war propaganda are complex. From a legal perspective they involve problematic arguments about the legality of war, the declaration of states of emergency, the ratification, reservations and reporting on the ICCPR and the domestic codification of an internationally illegal practise.

The media meanwhile are at the behest of commercial, governmental, ethical and legal influences and responsibilities, attempts to find a balance (or not) between all four.

Meanwhile a whole range of rights, including freedom to information and expression, freedom from discrimination, academic freedom, freedom of the press, the right to a fair trial and even the right to life, are interwoven with the prohibition of war propaganda in an intricate web of mutually supporting human rights.

The illegal status of war propaganda appears to provide flimsy recourse to those wanting to enforce its prohibition and protect the human rights it denigrates. Indeed, it could be argued that the human rights system has failed to deal adequately with the issue of war propaganda, with states too able to ignore, rather than deal head-on with, or even acknowledge there is a problem.

International Humanitarian Law also has a stake in the propaganda process. The ICHRP (2002) notes a worrying trend in war rhetoric to carefully choose language so as to avoid positive legal responsibility. The ICHRP comments:

“Use of language has always been important, of course, to propaganda. However, careful use of technical language is perhaps an emerging feature of news manipulation. During the 1994 Rwanda crisis, when the United States and other countries were reluctant to become involved, the United States Department of State insisted in referring to ‘genocidal incidents’ in Rwanda, rather than to ‘genocide’ because the second term would have triggered a legal obligation to act whereas the first formula did not.” [197]

Just as propaganda can be used to evade international legal responsibility in this way, so too it can violate human rights and override important national and international decision making processes regarding the conduct of war.

There is a clear link between the use of war propaganda and the undermining of rights and processes necessary to democracy, the most obvious of which is its denial of an informed body of citizenship. States which practise war propaganda in the ways described throughout this paper are therefore potentially unable to maintain or claim true democratic status and values.

As a point of optimism, although war propaganda diminishes human rights, so respect for human rights can diminish the effects of war propaganda. In 1999, Mary Robinson as the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted this valuable connection: Robinson remarked:

“Accurate and timely human rights investigations can dispel the propaganda and rumours which fan the flames of conflict. In many conflicts, the perception that vicious atrocities have been committed against one’s own people is the fuel used by leaders to ignite feelings of injustice and demands for retribution against the ‘other’.

“Combatants commit further atrocities and the conflict spirals. This has been recognized by Special Rapporteurs as they seek to sift the truth from war propaganda. To ignore proper human rights reporting during armed conflict is to surrender to the best propaganda machine. [198]

Propaganda is a powerful communications function, of that there is no doubt. The prohibition of war propaganda needs just as powerful a means of communication, in educating the public and governments about their responsibilities and the implications of ignoring them.


[1] US Senator Robert Byrd, The Emperor Has No Clothes, US Senate, Senate Floor Remarks, 17 October 2003


[3] Garth S Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion 1992, p2

[4] Kevin Williams, ‘Something more important than truth: ethical issues in war reporting’ in Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media, Andrew Belsey and Ruth Chadwick, p156

[5] National Security Archive through the George Washington University, Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum for the Secretary of Defence, Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba

[6] Kevin Williams, ‘Something more important than truth: ethical issues in war reporting’ in Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media, Andrew Belsey and Ruth Chadwick

[7] The ICCPR has 152 State Parties as at 9 June 2004

[8] David Morrison and Howard Tumber, Journalists at War 1988, p189

[9] Barbara Ehrenreich, The Roots of War The Progressive

[10] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting, page 90

[11] UN Human Rights Committee ICCPR General Comment 10, Freedom of Expression, Article 19, Nineteenth session, 1983

[12] Centre for Defense Information, March 19 2003

[13] For ease of reference throughout, I will refer to ‘home’ or ‘domestic’ in referring to the State whose use of war propaganda is being discussed, and ‘enemy’ meaning those of the opposing side in the war.

[14] Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty 2000 p493

[15] In 2002, the UK Special Immigration Appeals Commission judges found that there was a public emergency justifying the derogation from Article 5 of the ECHR – allowing people to be detained without charge or trial – but found that the derogation was unlawful and discriminatory because the new powers only concerned foreign nationals. The judgment means a core part of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime & Security Act is contrary to the ECHR.

[16] US President George Bush’s State of the Union address January 2002

[17] Quoted by Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty 2000 p507

[18] Lee Wigle Artz and Mark A Pollock, Limiting the Options: Anti-Arab Images in US Media Coverage of the Persian Gulf Crisis (in Kamalipour, The US Media and the Middle East 1995 p121)

[19] Danny Schechter, The Media Channel, The Link Between The Media, The War, And Our Right To Know 1 May 2003

[20] BBC News Online “Plain-speaking Rumsfeld strikes again” 12 March, 2003

[21] Tarik Kafala, BBC News Online “Analysis: Does the UN risk irrelevance?” 5 March, 2003

[22] See Chapter 4 for a full discussion on marginalising the voice of dissent.

[23] Indiana State University

[24] Charter of the United Nations 1945

[25] See

[26] Amnesty International “Report 2003”

[27] See

[28] Steiner and Alston, International Human Rights in Context 1996 p788

[29] The search facility for case law is at

[30] Quoted by Penny Kome in Home Front Battle 4 March 2003

[31] Merrills and Robertson, Human Rights in the World

[32] Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Just War Theory

[33] Paragraph 13, Security Council resolution 1441 (2002) The situation between Iraq and Kuwait UN Security Council Resolution 1441 “The situation between Iraq and Kuwait” 8 November 2002

[34] Edward Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy, Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda 1992, p 69

[35] Ineke Boerefijn, Towards a Strong System of Supervision: The Human Rights Committee’s Role in Reforming the Reporting Procedure under Article 40 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Quarterly 17.4 (1995) 766-793

[36] United Kingdom “Fifth Periodic Report Under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” December 1999

[37] Paragraph 597 United States Initial report of States parties to ICCPR due in 1993 24/08/94. CCPR/C/81/Add.4. (State Party Report) CCPR.C.81.Add.4.En?Opendocument

[38] ICCPR article 2, paragraph 2: “Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.”

[39] Found at

[40] Paragraph 213, Chile “Fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 1994: Chile. 03/12/98. CCPR/C/95/Add.11”

[41] Chile: Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee 30/03/99. CCPR/C/79/Add.104

[42] ICCPR Declarations and Reservations

[43] ICCPR Declarations and Reservations

[44] Hurst Hannum and Dana Fischer, American Society of International Law, US Ratification of the International Covenants on Human Rights 1993, p119

[45] Hurst Hannum and Dana Fischer, American Society of International Law, US Ratification of the International Covenants on Human Rights 1993, p30

[46] Jaime Oraá, Human Rights in States of Emergency in International Law, p127

[47] Paragraph 8, General Comment 24

[48] Customary international laws come into being as a result of a) consistent state practice combined with b) opinio juris, which is the state’s positive sense of legal obligation with regard to the rule.

[49] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

[50] The articles are: 6 (life), 7 (freedom from torture), 8 (freedom from slavery), 11 (imprisonment through non fulfilment of contract) 15 (freedom from facing retrospective crimes or penalties), 16 (recognition as a person before the law), 18 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion).

[51] Paragraph 13, General Comment 29

[52] Quoted in Steiner and Alston, International Human Rights in Context, p732

[53] Jaime Oraá, Human Rights in States of Emergency in International Law, p264

[54] First paragraph of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

[55] The optional protocol has 104 States parties out of 152 States parties to the ICCPR as at June 2004

[56] Paragraphs 1 & 2, General Comment 5, “Derogation of Rights”, 1981

[57] Jaime Oraá, Human Rights in States of Emergency in International Law, p78

[58] Paragraph 2, General Comment 29 “States of Emergency” 2001

[59] Paragraph 17, General Comment 29

[60] Jaime Oraá, Human Rights in States of Emergency in International Law, p64

[61] Paragraph 6, General Comment 29

[62] Paragraph 3, General Comment 29

[63] ECHR article 15: Derogation in time of emergency 1 In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law. 2 No derogation from Article 2, except in respect of deaths resulting from lawful acts of war, or from Articles 3, 4 (paragraph 1) and 7 shall be made under this provision. 3 Any High Contracting Party availing itself of this right of derogation shall keep the Secretary General of the Council of Europe fully informed of the measures which it has taken and the reasons therefor. It shall also inform the Secretary General of the Council of Europe when such measures have ceased to operate and the provisions of the Convention are again being fully executed.

[64] European Court of Human Rights, Brannigan and McBride v the UK 1993

[65] Human Rights Watch, Opportunism in the Face of Tragedy, Repression in the name of anti-terrorism (undated)

[66] Edward Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy, Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda 1992, p42

[67] UNESCO Conference on Media and Terrorism in Manila “Resolution on Terrorism and Media” May 2002

[68] Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty, p424

[69] Arab American Institute, In the Aftermath of September 11, 2001

[70] ICERD has 177 States Parties as at June 2004

[71] ICERD Declarations and Reservations

[72] Crimes of War, Legal Precedents in Rwanda Court

[73] Paragraph 674 of the judgement International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, The Prosecutor versus Jean-Paul Akayesu 1998,

[74] See paragraph 561 of the judgement International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, The Prosecutor versus Jean-Paul Akayesu 1998,

[75] Paragraph 50 of the judgement International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, The Prosecutor versus Georges Ruggiu, 2000,


[77] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting (Switzerland: 2002), p16 quoting Marlise Simons, Internatinal Herald Tribune “Trial examines war crimes free speech and journalism” 5 March 2002

[78] Ian Reed Fool’s Paradise Sonnet

[79] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting p90

[80] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting pxii quoting the Centre for Public Integrity 1991 Under Fire US Military restrictions on media

[81] Article 1 Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War 1978

[82] Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations states that a function of the United Nations is in “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms.” These rights include the right to vote in democratic elections. See for example article 21 of the UDHR and article 25 of the ICCPR which summarise a democratic voting system.

[83] Denis McQuail, Mass Media in the Public Interest (in Curran and Gurevitch, Mass Media and Society p71)

[84] Garth S Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion 1992, pxiv

[85] David Gordon “Manipulation by the Media: Truth, Fairness and Objectivity”, in David Gordon and John Michael Kittless, Controversies in Media Ethics p73

[86] David Gordon “Manipulation by the Media: Truth, Fairness and Objectivity”, in David Gordon and John Michael Kittless, Controversies in Media Ethics p82

[87] David Detmer, Covering Up Iran: Why Vital Information is Routinely Excluded from US Mass Media News Accounts (in Kamalipour, The US Media and the Middle East p 96-100) [88] John MacArthur, Censorship And The War On Terrorism 27 September 2001

[89] Philip M Taylor, Washington Post “Credibility: Can’t Win Hearts and Minds Without It” March 30, 2003

[90] Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions 1989, p10

[91] Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions 1989, p59

[92] How Many Dead? Major networks aren’t counting, December 12, 2001

[93] David Detmer, Covering Up Iran: Why Vital Information is Routinely Excluded from US Mass Media News Accounts (in Kamalipour, The US Media and the Middle East p 91)

[94] David Gordon “Manipulation by the Media: Truth, Fairness and Objectivity”, in David Gordon and John Michael Kittless, Controversies in Media Ethics p86

[95] David Detmer, Covering Up Iran p94: the Vincennes was in Iranian waters at the time of the shooting (not international waters); the Iranian plane was within the commercial air corridor (not outside of it); and the plane was moving away from the Vincennes when it was shot down (it was claimed it was speeding toward the Vincennes)

[96] David Detmer, Covering Up Iran p95

[97] Daniel Hallin, We Keep America on Top of the World 1994, p50

[98] For examples see BBC News Online “European press review” 12 September 2001

[99] CNN “Hollywood considers role in war effort” 12 November 2001

[100] Channel 4 Television “The War we Never Saw” 2003

[101] See CNN “War Against Terror Special Report” for an example of such branding.

[102] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting, p96

[103] Danny Schechter, The Media Channel, The Link Between The Media, The War, And Our Right To Know 1 May 2003

[104] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting, p112

[105] Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty, p434

[106] Knightly p 492 and 493

[107] David Morrison and Howard Tumber, Journalists at War 1988, p230

[108] Garth S Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion 1992, p26

[109] Kevin Williams “Something more important than truth: ethical issues in war reporting” in Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media, Andrew Belsey and Ruth Chadwick p161

[110] See for example UNESCO “Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” 1974

[111] Golden Gate University, Martin Niemöller,

[112] The ICESCR has 149 State Parties as at June 2004

[113] Quoted in Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty 2000 p 492

[114] International Press Institute “Caught in the Crossfire: The Iraq War and the Media” (undated)

[115] See The Guardian “Television agendas shape images of war” 27 March 2003


[117] Chicago Tribune How Fox is Winning the War 17 November 2003

[118] Quoted by Robert Jensen, “News Media Industry’s Criticism of Iraq Coverage Reveals Deeper Problems with Mainstream Journalists’ Conception of News” August 4 2003

[119] David Morrison and Howard Tumber, Journalists at War 1988, p228

[120] David Morrison and Howard Tumber, p236

[121] Climate in U.S. threatens freedom of information by Paul Lagasse, Digital Freedom Network April 2002

[122] New York Times, Elizabeth Bumiller, Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights May 16, 2003

[123] Information Clearing House, Journalists Reveal Their True Colors 11th April 2003

[124] BBC News Online Papers depict Saddam ‘toppled’ 10 April 2003

[125] BBC News Online Saddam’s symbol tumbles 9 April 2003 down

[126] Independent Media Center Staged “Liberation” media event? 10 April 2003

[127] PR Watch, Laura Miller, War is Sell 2002

[128] Sonia Livingstone, On the Continuing Problem of Media Effects (in Curran and Gurevitch, Mass Media and Society p306)

[129] Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty 2000, p 452

[130] Foreword of Yahya Kamalipour, The US Media and the Middle East, 1995, p xiv

[131] Interviewed in Channel 4 Television “The War we Never Saw” 2003

[132] USA Today “Amanpour: CNN practiced self-censorship” 14 September 2003

[133] As quoted by Danny Schechter, The Media Channel, The Link Between The Media, The War, And Our Right To Know,

[134] David Morrison and Howard Tumber, p228

[135] Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty 2000, p 481

[136] Kevin Williams, ‘Something more important than truth: ethical issues in war reporting’ in Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media, Andrew Belsey and Ruth Chadwick, p161

[137] Quoted in Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty 2000, p 345

[138] Kevin Williams, ‘Something more important than truth: ethical issues in war reporting’ in Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media, Andrew Belsey and Ruth Chadwick, p166

[139] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting, pxv

[140] Cable TV: Monopoly Power Over Programmers and the Public September 26, 2003

[141] Jeremy Rifkin, The Guardian, “USA: Media Giants Lobbying to Privatize Airwaves” April 28 2001

[142] Danny Schechter

[143] International Conference on Human Rights, Teheran, 12 May 1968, Resolution XXIII “Human Rights in Armed Conflicts” 313a360b41b86636c125641e004ad841?OpenDocument

[144] As at 2nd November 2003

[145] Sergei Danilochkin, Radio Liberty “Iraq: Mounting Civilian Casualties Underscore Coalition Struggle” 30 September 2003

[146] Julian Borger, The Guardian “The unreported cost of war: at least 827 American wounded” August 4 2003

[147] Tim Harper, Toronto Star “Pentagon keeps dead out of sight” November 2, 2003

[148] Iraq Body Count

[149] The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press “How the War on Terrorism Affects Access to Information and the Public’s Right to Know” September 2003

[150] Paul Gilbert “The oxygen of publicity: terrorism and reporting restrictions”, in Andrew Belsey and Ruth Chadwick, Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media

[151] Daniel Hallin, We Keep America on Top of the World, p53

[152] David Detmer “Covering Up Iran: Why Vital Information is Routinely Excluded from US Mass Media News Accounts” (in Kamalipour, The US Media and the Middle East p96-100)

[153] Edward Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy, Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda 1992, p11

[154] Annette Witheridge, The Scotsman “Oscars blacklist stars in bid to prevent peace protest speeches” 11 March 2003

[155] Amendment 1 to the 3rd article of the US Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

[156] Stephen John Hartnett, Fighting for Civil Liberties in the Land of the Free The Public i Vol. 2, No. 2 2002

[157] Edward Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy, Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda 1992, p10

[158] The Guardian “Actors’ guild condemns blacklist” 5 March 2003,12589,907942,00.html

[159] Julia Day, Media Guardian “Mirror scoops sacked NBC Man” 1 April 2003

[160] John MacArthur “Censorship And The War On Terrorism” 27 September 2001

[161] Phil Haslanger, Madison Capital Times, Reporter Chronicles War’s Effects, 23 May 2003

[162] John Nichols, Madison Capital Times (Wisconsin), The Boss Rises to Dixie Chicks’ Defense April 24, 2003

[163] John Nichols, Madison Capital Times

[164] John Nichols, Madison Capital Times

[165] Chisun Lee, Village Voice “Security or Suppression?” April 30 – May 6, 2003

[166] New York Civil Liberties Union, Arresting Protest 28 April 2003

[167] National Immigration Forum, “Immigrants in the Crosshairs: The Quiet Backlash Against America’s Immigrants and Refugees” 16 December 2002 articles/post911backlashbackgrounder.pdf

[168] Amnesty International “Report 2003”

[169] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting, p 15 & 16

[170] Phillip Knightly, The First Casualty 2000, p 493

[171] Denis McQuail, Mass Media in the Public Interest (in Curran and Gurevitch, Mass Media and Society p 70

[172] Janusz Symonides, Human rights: new dimensions and challenges 1998

[173] Fighting for Civil Liberties in the Land of the Free by Stephen John Hartnett The Public i Vol. 2, No. 2

[174] American Council of Trustees and Alumni “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It” February 2002, page 1

[175] The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Mission

[176] Kron 4 TV May 7, 2003 Secret Service Questions Students

[177] Kron 4 TV

[178] US Department of State “Bush, Blair Defend Decision to Remove Saddam Hussein from Power” 17 July 2003

[179] Panorama, BBC, October 2003 Guantanamo Bay documentary

[180] Quoted by Ciar Byrne, Media Guardian “US soldiers were main danger to journalists, says Simpson” June 27, 2003,12823,986601,00.html

[181] International Press Institute “Caught in the Crossfire: The Iraq War and the Media”

[182] Robert Fisk CounterPunch, “Did the US Murder Journalists?” April 29, 2003

[183] Article 51 Geneva Conventions relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts

[184] Reporters Without Borders “Reporters Without Borders outraged at bombing of Al-Jazeera office in Baghdad” 8 April 2003

[185] Reporters Without Borders “Colin Powell justifies US shooting at Palestine Hotel” 24th April 2003

[186] Text from articles 1 & 3 of Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948

[187] Article 1 International Convention concerning the Use of Broadcasting in the Cause of Peace 1936

[188] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting (Switzerland: 2002), p89


[190] Robert Fisk, Bush’s Titanic War On Terror, The Independent June 13, 2002

[191] See section 3.6 above

[192] See also The Institute for Policy Studies and Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Crude Vision: How Oil Interests Obscured US Government Focus on Chemical Weapons Use by Saddam Hussein

[193] The Guardian, George Wright, Wolfowitz: ‘Iraq War Was About Oil’, 04 June 2003

[194] Bloomberg, U.S., U.K. Waged War on Iraq Because of Oil, Blair Adviser Says, 1 May 2003

[195] The Guardian 4 August 2003, Bad news that Blair can’t buy.

[196] Claire Short’s resignation letter 12 May 2003 Robin Cook resignation speech 18 March 2003

[197] International Council on Human Rights Policy, Journalism, Media and the Challenge of Human Rights Reporting (Switzerland: 2002), p89

[198] Statement by Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the opening of the Commission on Human Rights, 55th session 1999

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