February 20, 2004


Further to the story about Age journalist Mark Forbes and his alleged sexing-up of comments made at a defence seminar last year, the following is from an internal mailing list at the centre where defence official Frank Lewincamp spoke:

The fact remains that very few journalists know the true definition of 'morally binding' or moral courage for that matter. 'The story' and their byline is all that matters. Every situation I have ever been in, whether it is in Australia or overseas where journalists have been present, has resulted in mis-reporting as a minimum. Their stories have been regularly embellished in order (I believe) to improve the journalists profile or sell papers.

In several cases, I have been near on pleading with journalists not to film or photograph soldiers and in some cases equipment because of the potential for that photo to compromise the individual or indeed an operational capability. Situations like this occurred in Iraq on many occasions and I can guarantee you that the information was utilised by Iraqi forces. Now I can't blame the Iraqis for that. But many of these supposedly impartial journalists relied on the Coalition to bail them out of trouble.

I can assure you that there are a few journos today who owe their lives to members of the Australian SAS in Western Iraq. But that didn't stop them reporting their encounter with the fellas in 'excessive' detail once they got to a safe location. Funnily enough quite a few Iraqi military elements turned up in those areas not long after.

The actions of Mark Forbes and the many like him do not aid in informing the population. Mark is no 'Public Crusader'. He abused the confidence and trust of an individual whose only interest was to ensure that we were well informed and better educated. For those of you who go on to positions of prominence in the Government, the Defence Community or the Media, remember that way down the chain, there is a young soldier who maybe putting it all on the line because he believes that what he is doing is just and right...because you... the educated one..sent him there.

Posted by Tim Blair at February 20, 2004 03:00 PM

Close your tag! for the love of God, close your tag!

Posted by: Steve in Houston at February 20, 2004 at 03:06 PM

Too late, it's spreading !!

Posted by: Johnny Wishbone at February 20, 2004 at 03:19 PM

I can well recall an army exercise back in the late 80's where a journalist rolled up to report on it, and interviewed some of the soldiers. A few of the guys told him some pretty hysterical stuff- that we could navigate through the bush via sense of smell, and by observing the shapes of different tree tops- whilst thinking "Surely he won't be stupid enough to fall for this nonsense..."

He dutifully wrote it all down in his notebook, and, guess what- when the article appeared, he really was stupid enough to fall for that nonsense. We thought it was pretty funny at the time in those more peaceful days. I hope the same fool isn't reporting from the middle east now.

Posted by: Wilbur at February 20, 2004 at 03:19 PM

And that is something Kevin Rudd is blind to ,next to Forbes and Mao's little Red Organ Grinder, The Age.

Posted by: d at February 20, 2004 at 03:53 PM

Wilbur brings to mind another strategy. Why not use misloyal journalists for misinformation? I.E. soldiers tell Mr. LooseLips, "Horrors! We'd hate to have terrorists show up at position x,y at critical time t", and then set an ambush at that time and place.
In the short term, we catch terrorists. In the long term, we teach terrorists to not trust Mr. LooseLips.

Posted by: Alan M. Robertson at February 20, 2004 at 04:00 PM

I like journos. They are funny. They make me laugh. Hahaha. Funny. Journalists. Hahaha. I need my medication now, thanks nurse...

Posted by: Chief Bastard at February 20, 2004 at 11:53 PM

a prime example in vietnam was dan rather's good photo op of gi's smoking pot through the barrel of a m-16. anything to break the monotony. it took years for the guys to admit it was a joke and all the moms in the us were going bonkers.

Posted by: old soldier at February 21, 2004 at 01:10 AM

Unsourced, unsubstantiated.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at February 21, 2004 at 11:11 AM

Hey Mir, the rest of your sentence -- paragraph -- whatever -- is missing. All we have are two adjectives floating in space! I can do that too, and make about as much sense: "Yellow, green." There! Anyone care to guess what the hell I am on about? Nope -- didn't think so. And thus will people treat your odd little enty here. Perhaps when the cheap gin hangover has worn off Miranda, you'll be willing to give us the rest of your no-doubt well-researched, foot-noted, impeccably-sourced diatribe on... whatever you are pissed off about today.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 21, 2004 at 12:07 PM

Unsourced, unsubstantiated.

Unloved, unwanted.

I know its a tough world, but hang in there Miranda.

Posted by: Quentin George at February 21, 2004 at 01:01 PM

Unimpressed, incontinent.

Posted by: papertiger at February 21, 2004 at 06:41 PM