n Communicatio : South African Journal of Communication Theory and Research - Embedded journalism - more than a conflict reporting issue




One of the outstanding features of the recent war in Iraq was the prominent media coverage given to so-called embedded journalists, that is, reporters travelling with, and under, the protection of coalition forces. This practice was severely criticised for compromising the independence of journalists. Editors nevertheless defended it on practical grounds. In this article it is argued that embedded journalism is part and parcel of the way South African media operate, albeit in a somewhat different form from what is prevalent in Iraq and that it includes far more than issues relating to conflict reporting. The issue of conflict of interests while gathering news is well documented and routinely addressed in handbooks on media ethics as well as ethical codes. But the South African media usually tend to shun open discussion of this and other ethical issues. Whatever the reason, the lack of debate on these and other media ethical issues prevents media users from seeing journalism for what it is: a value-laden activity more often than not determined by commercial considerations. These issues are addressed within the South African context and some pertinent questions are posed on the political and commercial embeddedness of journalists, that is, how conflict of interest permeates South African media. It is concluded that owners, managers and individual journalists all have some responsibility for the embeddedness of South African journalists. Given the focus on profits, it is suggested that the way forward would be for journalists to start speaking out and applying their specific ethical codes.


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