Ethics of Media vs. Military Thesis

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Ethics of Media vs. Military

The issue of the military and its relationship with the press is greatly varied and complex. The military for example has of necessity upheld a code of secrecy for the purpose of protecting its procedures during warfare. On the other hand, recent and past revelations by media investigations have brought to light some questionable practices by the military in its effort to gain and maintain the upper hand in war. Issues such as alleged torture and bombing the innocent have been particularly prominent revelations in more than one war where the United States Army was involved. There are those who believe that, to provide the press with unmitigated freedom would endanger military missions and concomitantly the safety and security of the country. The opposite camp believe that to deny complete freedom to the press is to deny the citizens of the United States their right to be informed and concomitantly the right to make informed choices regarding their government.

In this light, the question is whether it is ethical for conglomerates that own military weapons production establishments to also own media corporations that will cover these wars. Clearly, this is an ethical issue in which conflicts of interest may arise: the military may want to keep secret the exact type of weapons produced, while the press may wish to report on these weapons. The safety and security of the country, as well as the ethical interest of the military, may be at stake in this case.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Thesis on Ethics of Media vs. Military the Issue Assignment

In order to solve the dilemma, the issue needs to be considered both from the side of the press, the viewpoint of the military, as well as the public interest and right to be informed. While it is true that the military have the right, to some extent, to maintain the secrecy of its operations, it is also true that the public has the right to be informed when the military oversteps ethical boundaries. As such, the press should have the right to report on such issues. In the case of the conglomerate owning both the media corporation and the weapons manufacturer, the issue might be handled by means of a contract. This contract could for example stipulate the extent of secrecy necessary to maintain the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and the extent of freedom that could be allowed in reporting. Before any definite decisions can be made, however, the issue needs to be considered from all possible angles.

According to the Independent (2002), while the freedom of the press is to be supported to some extent, this cannot be an unlimited allowance. The two most common arguments for freedom of the press is that it provides a means for truth and discover and that it allows for open communication and public debate. The Independent however holds that neither argument is sufficient grounds for unlimited freedom of the press. The main reason for this is that the aim towards communication must meet certain standards - it must be both accessible to and assessable by its audience. If there were no limits on press freedom, these standards would not need to be met, and the very aims of the press of communication and truth would be undermined. These are however not at issue in terms of military secrecy, or indeed the issue between the military weapons factor and the media association. Indeed, it is assumed that the association would uphold the necessary standards of communication and truth in its report.

What is at issue is the extent to which the first amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom to the press to report on military matters. Indeed, while the principle of press freedom has been unquestioningly accepted by the general American public, its application to the military has been notoriously misunderstood and demonized. Like free speech, there are some curbs on the freedom of the press as it concerns military matters. While reporting on military matters, the press should for example take responsibility for what it reports. The same is true for free speech. No person can raise an opinion, especially if this opinion is controversial, without taking responsibility for such an opinion. The situation and circumstances in question should for example be taken into account, as well as the possible harm that could result from exercising this freedom. If leaking military secrets could for example harm the safety and security of the public, even in the interest of keeping the public informed, it would be irresponsible to exercise the freedom of press principle in such a case.

In the military context then, the national interest should take precedence over the potentially limitless freedom of the press. The military entails certain paradigms of command, control, and military authority. Without these paradigms, the military would be unable to function. The military is furthermore based upon unity of action in order to be successful in its missions. Any action or report that could cause internal dissension should therefore be limited in the interest of public safety and security. An effective military force is a vital component of modern life, particularly in the climate following 9/11 during 2001. The press can contribute to the effective functioning of the military, or it could indeed undermine it. It is not in the public interest to do this.

On the other hand, it is also possible to restrict the freedom of the press to an extent which does not merit the vital and/or effective functioning of the military. Barry White (2007) notes the example of the Swiss journalists accused of violating military secrecy. The journalists published a report that leaked information on a secret CIA prison and the European transport of CIA prisoners. This falls within the category of the public's right to be informed of any potentially unethical practices within military establishments.

White (2007) also reports that the Swiss military has tended to use legal proceedings in just this way in order to intimidate journalists who dare to report unsavory truths. This in itself in unethical and directly against first amendment rights. Indeed, the Swiss military justice system is in a fairly unique position in terms of its ability to try civilians in Europe. This ability has all too often been used against media professionals who report on issues of military interest. This, according to White's report, is in opposition to the United Nations Human Rights Pact, which provides the press with the right to report on military issues to an extent where this can be deemed acceptable and in the public interest. In one reported case, a journalist was sentenced to 20 days in jail for reporting on the construction weakness of a bunker used by the Swiss military.

In this regard, the conglomeration that owns the weapons factory, as well as the military institution involved should recognize that they also have an ethical paradigm to uphold. No military establishment should be guilty of blatantly unethical actions or human rights violations. If they are, the press has a right to uncover and report such actions.

Today, the military can no longer hope to conceal such issues. This is what the freedom of the press entails; that the public has the right to know if the institutions that are to serve and protect citizens are guilty of violations in this regard. Specifically, what this means for the conglomerate is that both the press association and the military institution should be aware of the ethical requirement. The press should be aware of its rights and responsibilities, as well as its restrictions, while the military institution should operate from the basis of an accepted ethical system that dictates its actions towards both civilians and foreigners. If these two cannot be reconciled, the conglomeration should perhaps consider selling either of the institutions, because then it would be unethical to own both.

The issue is however much more complex than can be explicated in a few pages of contract. Circumstances often dictate military action. Indeed, in the heat of combat, it is not always easy to consult ethics systems before making immediate decisions that could result in life or death for the individual and his or her team. It should always be recognized that the primary purpose of military institutions is to prepare for waging war when this is deemed necessary by the government. Military exercises should then be focused on the ethical system from which the institution operates. However, it should also be recognized that mistakes may be made in the heat of battle, which could not always be foreseen. When presented in the sobering light of press freedom, these actions could shed a very negative light upon the military institution.

This issue should also be recognized in the suggested contract between the associations that the conglomerate owns. The press association should for example conduct interviews and launch investigations from the assumption that the military institution has in all cases attempted to follow the ethical guidelines stipulated for it. Any resulting reports should then also be presented… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Ethics of Media vs. Military.  (2009, March 8).  Retrieved November 28, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/ethics-media-military-issue/65776

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