Psychological warfare: Staging Journalism


In 1827, Joseph Nicephore produced first photograph and after almost seven decades of struggle in that field, first moving picture (videos) was made and released by Lumiere brothers of Paris, in 1895. At that time it was very short duration recordings of general events which were called actualities but no one knew that in future it would be used as a great tool of deception. In coming years the video industries grown rapidly and even the wars were filmed. Second Boer war was a first that kind of event which was filmed by the motion pictures and after a decade it was widely used in WWI as a best tool of propaganda.

Staging photographs and videos for propaganda purpose is not new; it was started very after its invention. In 1898 Spanish-American war, photographs of the result of the event that triggered the war, the USS Maine at the bottom of Havana harbor after she blew up, were shot in a fish tank in New Jersey. In second Boer war (1899-1902) British newsreel showed Boers attacking Red Cross camps full of wounded as British doctors and nurses valiantly defended their helpless patients, actually it was staged and filmed in Hampstead heath, London.

In WWII, photographs and films were used as massive propaganda weapons used by the both forces, photographers and cameramen covered every front and presented in every theatre or cinema and most of the events were staged for propaganda. In 1944, Allied censors reviewed 35000 photographs and 100000 feet of news reel every week.

Television was invented in 1920s but developed and spread widely after WWII. French-Algerian war (1955-62) was the first broadcasted on television. Since then television has become a powerful instrument in reporting military conflict, politics, international affairs and all psychological warfare. In first gulf war American people were against to get in any war in gulf. A young Kuwaiti girl was shown on US news channels, telling the brutality of Iraqi soldiers and later she repeated this in UN also. This became a key factor for convincing US citizens to go in war. Later it was proved it was staged and girl was paid to do so and all the allegations were false.

In psychological warfare staging events and spreading it through media is widely used for gaining different objectives. In April 2003, famous footages of Baghdad crowd celebrating as a US marine vehicle toppled a statue of Saddam Hussain were presented as a spontaneous outpouring of anti Saddam to world, however the event was staged by US army psyops team. A senior BBC journalist at Baghdad, Rageh Omaar later admitted that most of the events were staged and false news reporting were being done by all the western News channels.

In News industry staging journalism is now very common. It is used for different reasons like gaining cheap popularity which is called rating, organized propaganda against or achieving some specific targets. In 2003, two French Journalists were caught filming in Baluchistan. They paid money to some local people to act like Taliban. They were making documentary on Taliban ties with Intelligence agencies of Pakistan with the paid actors. In November 2001, British Newspaper Telegraph’s journalist Christina Lamb was arrested and deported by Pakistani authorities because of she tried to stage a false news story about Osama Bin Ladin. She attempted to book an air line ticket in the name of O B Ladin and it was a plan to show to the world that how Osama is enjoying there.

Deception is unethical and on some grounds it is illegal. Staging journalism is all about deception, the worst form of reporting and has no excuse what so ever the objective is. People believe in media that what they are showing is true and it must be true. Journalist duty is to inform and educate the people not to deceive them from stage events or to become a tool of Psychological operations.

(Majid Khan is a Journalist, Lecturer and PhD scholar of media in Australia)

Discliamer: Views expressed are not of The London Post.