Hyland, Tom: Afghanistan not reported or understood

Tom Hyland

The worst-reported and least understood foreign conflict in Australian history‘, Inside Story, 22 January 2014

Review of Don’t Mention the War: The Australian Defence Force, the Media and the Afghan Conflict by  Kevin Foster. The reviewer notes that in two recent months ‘as many Afghans died violent deaths in Uruzgan as Australia lost during the entire war’ yet this seemed to be unreported in Australia.

As Foster puts it, the battle for their country mattered to the Australian media and the public “only in so far as it provide[d] a platform for deeds of valour and sacrifice that showcase [our] essential national qualities.” Even that level of interest was shallow, and the reporting of those deeds was often little more than a caricature.

Foster attributes this to the actions of ADF hierarchy and media executives but Hyland wonders whether

the army’s aversion to open communication and media freedom might simply reflect a wider national trait, deeply embedded in our political, government and bureaucratic culture. That culture is expressed in a closed, defensive officiousness, where all official information is assumed to be confidential except when someone in authority deigns to release it.

For other similar analysis, see Broadbent, Brissenden and Toohey. And a review by Hyland of a book that tangentially considers Australia’s role in this war.

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