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Media is the Battlefield

Newsletter 07-04
October 2006

CALL Handbook No. 06-08: Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook Cover

Public Affairs Guidance for Training Purposes

Appendix A

Although first presented in a Secretary of Defense message in 2001, the information presented in this appendix still provides useful and valid public affairs (PA) guidance (PAG) to units for training.

PAG for Training Purposes

Subject: PAG on military operations in the host nation and the conflict in the area.

1. Purpose: The Department of Defense’s (DOD) principal goal for battlefield coverage of the U.S. military in combat is to provide for timely and accurate news media and command information coverage of coalition military operations in the host nation.

2. Policy.

2.A. DOD policy is to provide accurate and timely information (“maximum disclosure with minimum delay”) consistent with the requirement to maintain operations security (OPSEC), protect intelligence information and sources, and protect the welfare and privacy rights of Soldiers, patients, next of kin, and family members. All PA offices will practice security at the source. The DOD policy on media coverage of military operations in the host nation is that media will have long-term, minimally restrictive access to U.S. air, ground, and naval forces through embedding, direct engagement with military personnel, and approved methods of public information release. Media coverage of operations will, to a large extent, shape public perception of the national security environment now and in the years ahead. This holds true for the U.S. public; the public in allied countries whose opinion can affect the durability of our coalition; and the public in countries where we conduct operations, whose perceptions of us can affect the cost and duration of our involvement. Our ultimate strategic success in bringing peace and security to this region will come in our long-term commitment to supporting our democratic ideals. We need to tell the factual story, good or bad, before others seed the media with disinformation and distortions, as they most certainly will continue to do. Our people in the field need to tell our story; only commanders can ensure the media get to the story alongside the troops. We must organize for and facilitate access of national and international media to our forces, including those forces engaged in ground operations, with the goal of doing so right from the start. To accomplish this we will embed media with units, conduct active PA engagements, and release public information in a prudent manner, considering OPSEC first and foremost. Commanders and PA officers (PAOs) must work together to balance the need for media access with the need for OPSEC.

2.B. Since the fall of the former regime, an intensive effort has been made to accredit bona fide media. Multinational Corps (MNC) has issued credentials to bona fide local and international media. Their credentials neither afford unrestricted access to U.S. forces nor attest to a preferred editorial bias. Rather, credentialed media have demonstrated an acceptance of MNC ground rules for coverage of U.S. military operations and are not known to be affiliated with non-compliant forces in the host nation. Perceived violations of ground rules will be addressed to the MNC PAO before termination of an embed or revocation of credentials.

2.C. MNC directs all embeds in the host nation. Media may be embedded with unit personnel at air and ground forces bases and with forces afloat to ensure a full understanding of all operations. Embedded media will be given access to operational combat missions, including mission preparation and debriefing, whenever possible.

  • 2.C.1. A media embed is defined as any media representative who remains with a unit on an extended basis, perhaps a period of hours, days, or weeks. Commanders will provide billeting, rations, and medical attention, if needed, to the embedded media commensurate with that provided to members of the unit. Access to military transportation and assistance with communications for filing/transmitting media products will be provided if required.
  • 2.C.2. Embedded media are authorized to use their own vehicles while traveling in an embedded status. Commanders will use their discretion and may prohibit the use of media vehicles if the tactical situation prohibits such use or if media vehicles would in any way encumber the tactical commander’s mission.
  • 2.C.3. To the extent possible, space on military transportation will be made available for embedded media equipment necessary to cover a particular operation. Media embeds are responsible for loading and carrying their own equipment at all times. Use of priority inter-theater airlift for media to cover stories, as well as to file stories, is highly encouraged. Seats aboard vehicles, aircraft, and naval ships will be made available to allow maximum coverage of U.S. troops in the field.
  • 2.C.4. Units should plan lift and logistical support to assist in moving embedded media products to and from the battlefield to help tell our story in a timely manner. In the event of commercial communication difficulties, embedded media are authorized to file stories via expeditious military signal/communications capabilities.
  • 2.C.5. No communications equipment for use by embedded media in the conduct of their duties will be specifically prohibited. However, unit commanders may impose temporary restrictions on electronic transmissions for OPSEC reasons. Embedded media will seek approval to use electronic devices in a combat/hostile environment, unless otherwise directed by the commander or his/her designated representative. The use of communications equipment will be discussed in full when the media arrive at their assigned unit.
  • 2.C.6. Embedded media provide their own personal protective equipment. Media agencies are required to provide all immunizations required for the area of operations (AO).
  • 2.C.7. Embedded media are, under no circumstances, allowed to carry or possess a firearm or weapon.

2.D. Direct engagement with media is defined as all interaction with unilateral media in the host nation AO. Commanders are encouraged to interact with credentialed media by conducting interviews with media and affording access to unit personnel. Direct engagement with uncredentialed media may be done at the discretion of the unit commander.

2.E. Release authority is delegated to the MNC.

2.F. The following categories of information are releasable:

  • 2.F.1. Approximate friendly-force strength figures.
  • 2.F.2. Approximate friendly casualty figures by service. Embedded media may, within OPSEC limits, confirm unit casualties they have witnessed.
  • 2.F.3. Confirmed figures of enemy personnel detained or captured.
  • 2.F.4. Size of friendly force participating in an action or operation can be disclosed using approximate terms. Specific force or unit identification may be released when it no longer warrants security protection.
  • 2.F.5. Information and location of military targets and objectives previously under attack.
  • 2.F.6. Generic description of origin of air operations, such as “land-based.”
  • 2.F.7. Date, time, or location of previous conventional military missions and actions, as well as mission results, are releasable only if described in general terms.
  • 2.F.8. Type of ordnance expended in general terms.
  • 2.F.9. Number of aerial combat or reconnaissance missions or sorties flown in the AO.
  • 2.F.10. Type of forces involved (air defense, infantry, armor, Marines).
  • 2.F.11. Allied participation by type of operation (ships, aircraft, ground units, etc.) after approval of the allied unit commander.
  • 2.F.12. Operation code names.
  • 2.F.13. Names and hometowns of U.S. military units.
  • 2.F.14. Service member’s name and hometown with the individual’s consent.

2.G. The following categories of information are not releasable because their publication or broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger lives:

  • 2.G.1. Specific number of troops in units below corps/Marine expeditionary force level.
  • 2.G.2. Specific number of aircraft in units at or below the air expeditionary wing level.
  • 2.G.3. Specific numbers regarding other equipment or critical supplies (artillery, tanks, landing craft, radars, trucks, water, etc.).
  • 2.G.4. Specific number of ships in units below the carrier battle group level.
  • 2.G.5. Names of military installations or specific geographic locations of military units in the area of responsibility, unless specifically released by DOD or authorized by the MNC commander. News and imagery products that identify or include identifiable features of these locations are not authorized for release.
  • 2.G.6. Information regarding future operations.
  • 2.G.7. Information regarding force-protection measures at military installations or encampments (except those which are visible or readily apparent).
  • 2.G.8. Photography showing the level of security at military installations or encampments.
  • 2.G.9. Rules of engagement (ROE).
  • 2.G.10. Information on intelligence-collection activities that would compromise friendly tactics, techniques, and procedures.
  • 2.G.11. Extra precautions in reporting will be required at the commencement of hostilities to maximize operational surprise. Live broadcasts by embedded media from airfields, on the ground or afloat, are prohibited until the safe return of the initial strike package or until authorized by the unit commander.
  • 2.G.12. During an operation, specific information on friendly-force troop movements, tactical deployments, and dispositions that would jeopardize OPSEC or lives. Information on ongoing engagements will not be released unless authorized for release by the on-scene commander.
  • 2.G.13. Information on special operations units, unique operations methodology, or tactics. (For example: air operations, angles of attack, and speeds; naval tactical or evasive maneuvers, etc.) General terms, such as “low” or “fast,” may be used.
  • 2.G.14. Information on the effectiveness of enemy electronic warfare.
  • 2.G.15. Information identifying postponed or canceled operations.
  • 2.G.16. Information on missing or downed aircraft or missing vessels while search-and-rescue and recovery operations are being planned or underway.
  • 2.G.17. Information on effectiveness of enemy camouflage, cover, deception, targeting, direct and indirect fire, intelligence collection, or security measures.
  • 2.G.18. No photographs or other visual media showing an enemy prisoner of war or detainee’s recognizable face, name tag, or other identifying feature or item may be taken.
  • 2.G.19. Still or video imagery of custody operations or interviews with persons under custody.

2.H. The following procedures and policies apply to coverage of wounded, injured, and ill personnel:

  • 2.H.1. Media representatives will be reminded of the sensitivity of using names of individual casualties or photographs they may have taken which clearly identify casualties until after notification of the next of kin (NOK) and release by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (PA).
  • 2.H.2. Battlefield casualties may be covered by embedded media as long as the service member’s identity is protected from disclosure for 72 hours or upon verification of NOK notification, whichever is first.
  • 2.H.3. Media visits to medical facilities will be in accordance with applicable regulations, standing operating procedures, operations orders, and instructions by attending physicians. If approved, service or medical facility personnel must escort media at all times.
  • 2.H.4. Patient welfare, patient privacy, and NOK/family considerations are the governing concerns surrounding news media coverage of wounded, injured, and ill personnel in medical treatment facilities or other casualty collection and treatment locations.
  • 2.H.5. Media visits are authorized to medical care facilities, but must be approved by the medical facility commander and attending physician. These visits must not interfere with medical treatment. Requests to visit medical care facilities outside the continental United States will be coordinated by the unified PA command.
  • 2.F.6. Reporters may visit those areas designated by the facility commander, but will not be allowed in operating rooms during operating procedures.
  • 2.H.7. Permission to interview or photograph a patient will be granted only with the consent of the attending physician or facility commander and with the patient’s informed consent, witnessed by the escort.
  • 2.H.8. “Informed consent” means the patient understands his or her picture and comments are being collected for news media purposes and that they may appear nationwide in news media reports.
  • 2.H.9. The attending physician or escort should advise the service member if NOK have been notified.

3. PA posture.

3.A. DOD PAG specifies active posture for media coverage of deployed/deploying units and unit training activities, within constraints established in the PAG. For public inquiries, the Army PA posture is active. PA offices are encouraged to maintain outreach activities (e.g., contact with veterans service organizations, military service organizations, speakers bureaus, etc.) to keep the public informed.

3.B. During combat operations, DOD will conduct daily news briefings. Major subordinate commands may direct commanders to conduct press conferences in order to convey public information to defined audiences.

3.C. PA offices at all levels should address, within their purview and to the greatest extent possible, media and public queries about nonoperational matters, referring only those queries they cannot answer to higher-echelon PA offices. It is anticipated that the majority of media queries about nonoperational matters will focus on: casualties; status of Soldiers; family assistance; capabilities of weapons systems; and general structure, size, capabilities, and mission of Army units.

3.D. Be prepared to furnish transportation and required logistical support. Provide a guide with the transportation and an escort for the media. For embedded media, commanders on the ground will make the call if media escorts are required.

4. Security.

4.A. Open and independent reporting is the principle means for news coverage of coalition military operations. Open reporting means the military will give credentialed journalists access to military operations and will facilitate reporters. Open reporting does not mean we will compromise security or the safety of our Soldiers. We will be open and honest. We will not cover up mistakes or embarrassing situations by burying them under a cloak of secrecy, and we will not lie to the media. Independent reporting means we will allow journalists to get their own stories. We will avoid using media pools, where only a few journalists are given access and must share their reports with other news agencies. There is no security review or censorship of news media products. U.S. military personnel shall protect classified information from unauthorized or inadvertent disclosure. Do not confiscate news media products or the property of a news agency or reporter. Always maintain security at the source.

4.B. Expect contact with all types of media (local, national, U.S., and international) while in country. Some journalists may be unescorted and uncredentialed while covering U.S. operations in the host nation or may be credentialed, but not escorted.

4.C. Expect scheduled and unannounced media visits. The MNC PAO will verify the accreditation of all willing members of the media and issue credentials before allowing access for scheduled media visits to any subordinate unit. As part of the credentialing process, media have agreed to abide by a set of ground rules. Any violation of these rules could result in media being denied access to cover coalition forces operations in the host nation.

4.D. The MNC PAO may provide a military or DOD civilian escort for the media when conducting scheduled visits. When a bona fide escort (civilian or military) with media arrives at your unit, allow immediate access to the person or event the reporter will visit.

4.E. If uncredentialed and unescorted media arrive in your area, assume that the individual is not a member of the media, follow PAG, report the contact, and refer them to the MNC PAO for credentialing.

4.F. If credentialed, but unescorted, media arrive in your area, allow access to your area within the PAG outlined in Annex R (PAG). Do not jeopardize current or ongoing operations to allow access.

4.G. Do not detain any members of the media unless absolutely necessary in accordance with ROE. In all cases, report detention, injury, death, or equipment confiscation to the MNC PAO. Serious incidents involving media are reported through command channels to DOD and Department of State.

4.H. Do not detain or interfere with media members who have official escort. Safety of the media beyond your own local security is not a concern.

5. Point of contact is MNC PAO.

6. The following statement is approved for use by all military personnel concerning the current U.S. military deployment to the host nation.

6.A. “U.S. military forces have deployed to the host nation to enforce multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Our role here is to help the people establish a democratically elected government and, as necessary, destroy forces that attempt to deny the right to live in a free and democratic country.”

6.B. Themes and messages:

  • Gain public support for coalition military forces and the interim government.
  • Create an environment that facilitates the restoration of public services, health services, and utilities.
  • Support coalition operations to remove or apprehend threat elements and neutralize resistance to coalition operations.
  • Promote a safe and secure environment.

6.C. Talking points:

  • We are committed to using all assets assigned to our unit to support coalition activities to restore peace and basic services to the host nation.
  • We are trained and ready to accomplish all missions assigned to our unit.
  • We will take any measure to protect our Soldiers while conducting operations.
  • We will provide a safe and secure environment to ensure a legitimate government is established.
  • Our units are committed to supporting the local communities in order to promote public support while building a better country.

6.D. The following questions and answers are for your use in responding to media queries:

  • Question 1: Why are U.S. forces here?
    Response 1: U.S. forces are in the host nation as part of a coalition to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions and establish a safe and secure environment.
  • Question 2: How long do you plan to stay?
    Response 2: We have not determined how long we will stay; however, we are committed to assisting the government and plan to stay as long as it takes to complete the mission.
  • Question 3: What is your mission?
    Response 3: Our mission here is to help the people establish a democratically elected local government and a safe and secure environment for its people.
  • Question 4: What are your plans to conduct combat operations?
    Response 4: For operations security reasons I cannot talk about future operations or plans. I can tell you that we are prepared for any situation or contingency.
  • Question 5: In the event your forces come under attack, what action can you take?
    Response 5: I cannot discuss rules of engagement; however, we will take whatever action necessary to protect coalition Soldiers, civilian lives, and property.


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