Archive for the ‘Journalism and war’ Category

Reading about participatory media and remix culture for this week’s class, I was wondering if journalists and news organizations are making use of the Creative Commons license. As a highly competitive industry that is fighting to preserve its status as a gatekeeper and its flow of revenues, making stories and footage freely available might seem absurd?

But Al Jazeera’s repository of broadcast-quality video footage of the war on Gaza, released under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license, shows a different motivation behind the broadcasting of news which focuses not so much on generating revenues but on Al Jazeera’s mission ‘to get our news out’  as Mohamed Nanabhay, Al Jazeera executive told the New York Times. Al Jazeera Network is the first news network in the world to offer footage that is available for free to be downloaded, shared, remixed, subtitled and rebroadcasted for non-commercial and commercial use with acknowledgement to them.

In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had the distinct advantage that they were already there. But while Al Jazeera’s International channel can be viewed in every major European market, the network is largely unavailable in the US, where it is only carried by a few cable providers. The insightful article of the New York Times relates the near-total blackout in the US to the sharp criticism the channel received from the US government during the initial stages of the Iraq war for its coverage of the American invasion.

But whether the use of the Creative Commons license by Al Jazeera is purely motivated by political reasons or not, it signifies a huge success for this new flexible concept of copyright.


As the media is currently showing great interest in the departure of the last US combat troops from Iraq after more than seven years of war, I think it’s worth revisiting the Independent Media Center’s documentary ‘In a Time of War’. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speaks passionately about the importance of dialogue for democracy and highlights the shortcomings of the US commercial mass media in reporting on the invasion of Iraq to represent the ‘true face of war’.

Amy Goodman’s arguments about the distorted war coverage fit well with Jean Baudrillard’s theory of the simularcrum, which he developed in the early 1990s. According to Baudrillard, the simularcrum describes the transformation of an image from reflecting reality, to masking reality, to masking the absence of reality, to the point where it has no relation to any reality whatsoever. Baudrillard famously declared the first Gulf War as a non-event, a heavily mediated spectacle – a simularcrum. According to him there was no shared, collective experience, only the individual consumption of signs produced by the mass media.

The simularcrum of the Iraq War, the media spectacle, can then be seen in this documentary when Amy Goodman points to the heavy use of embedded journalists, video game like simulations of missile action, the use of high-rank military personnel as ‘experts’ and the use of military terminology in the daily news reports. This is definitely a documentary that makes you think about the power of the media to influence our perception of war.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Part 3:

Further Readings:

Baudrillard, J 1994, ‘The precession of simularcra’, in Simulacra and simulation, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp. 1-14.