A response from the website MediaLens to Alex Thomson’s piece on the Afghanistan war and the practicalities of embed journalism:
In his September 1 piece, ‘Afghanistan: the rough guide to roughness’, Alex Thomson writes:
“Chief among the carpers about embedding, of course, the indefatigable editors at MediaLens who get extremely hoity-toity at the entire concept of embedding.
“However, ask them how they would cover Helmand if they were off to the main bazaar, Lashkar Gah, at noon next Tuesday and guess what? Total silence from the normally electronically incontinent MediaLens email service. Which rather clinches the argument, simple though it is.”
This is false. In April, Alison Banville, an activist and freelance journalist, asked us to respond to Thomson’s question. We did so and she forwarded the following comments to Thomson on 3 April:
“From the Davids [David Edwards and David Cromwell, editors of MediaLens]:
“He’s never asked us ‘how will you cover Helmand assuming you are going there next week?’ The answer is that he should report it as he would any illegal invasion of a sovereign state. He should report it as he would have reported the 1979-89 Soviet invasion and occupation. In other words, present the opinion of the invading forces, of the people under occupation, including the resistance, and of experts in international law who declare the whole operation illegal.
“Obviously, alongside the warmongers, leading anti-war commentators should be regularly quoted and featured: Chomsky, Herman, Pilger, Goodman, Curtis, Ellsberg, et al. I’m not suggesting he could achieve all of that himself in the field, but his reports should be part of a news service that does. There’s no question of intellectual cowardice [on our part, as claimed by Thomson] – the answer couldn’t be more obvious. Happy for you to quote us on this.”
Thomson responded to Banville’s email on the same day, expressing agreement with our comments while claiming that Channel 4 had already done as we had suggested.
Thomson now claims that by “total silence” he meant we had totally evaded his question – hard to reconcile with the meaning of “total silence” and with his positive response on April 3 when he made no mention of evasion.
The truth is that we never avoid difficult questions from mainstream journalists. On the contrary, we are forever seeking to engage them in written debate and are consistently ignored or fobbed off. Readers can find 3,000 pages of examples here: http://www.medialens.org/alerts/archive.php