British prince on the front line- agreed media silence.

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In summary: He's an amazing soldier and I'm glad he's there on the front line.In summary, Prince Harry has been fighting the Taleban on the front line in Afghanistan. The MoD has confirmed his deployment. The media agreed not to broadcast/print anything as long as he was in Afghanistan, but this broke down after being leaked by foreign media. I worry that the practice of an agreed media silence may be a way to keep bad news under wraps. People are impressed by his service and support for the Gurkhas, but are concerned about the security risk he poses.
  • #1
matthyaouw
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Prince Harry has been fighting the Taleban on the front line in Afghanistan, the MoD has confirmed.

Harry, 23, who is third in line to the throne, has spent the last 10 weeks serving in Helmand Province.

The deployment was subject to a news blackout deal, which broke down after being leaked by foreign media.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7269743.stm
My emphasis.

This worries me. While I understand the potential security risk of letting the enemy know the whereabouts of the prince, I question the practice of an agreed media silence. Should the MoD, royal family or government have the power to stop the media reporting an important story? Not so much with regard to this circumstance, but in general. Who gets to decide what we find out and what we don't? I don't want to see the day when bad news is simply buried and denied.

What are people's thoughts?
 
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  • #2
I think the emphasis here should be on deal. The media was not forced to do anything. They merely agreed not to broadcast/print anything as long as Harry was in Afghanistan.
The "carrot" was of course the interviews he has been giving the whole time, which you can now see on TV, and which were orignally meant to be broadcast after his deployment has ended (April).
I find it VERY hard to believe that the tabloids would have agreed to this if it wasn't for the fact that they knew that they would be able to sell more copies in the long run.
I suspect Murdoch&co are as upset as the MoD about the fact that the news were leaked prematurely.
 
  • #3
It is very common for the media to cooperate with a government during a time of crisis/war (it happens in the US, too). F95toli is right - the key is that they do it by choice, not by coercion.
 
  • #4
The silence of the media was for good reason. They agreed that Harry would be a high-value target, and the Taliban might make special efforts to take him out. The concentrated attention on his unit would place all members of his unit at higher-than-normal risk for death and injury. I expect that they will send him back home or put him in some less-dangerous support position to reduce the risks to him and the members of his unit.
 
  • #5
turbo-1 said:
The silence of the media was for good reason. They agreed that Harry would be a high-value target, and the Taliban might make special efforts to take him out. The concentrated attention on his unit would place all members of his unit at higher-than-normal risk for death and injury. I expect that they will send him back home or put him in some less-dangerous support position to reduce the risks to him and the members of his unit.
My thoughts exactly.
 
  • #6
turbo-1 is right. Knowledge of his whereabouts by the Taliban puts the soldiers under him in great danger.
 
  • #7
There's been a lot of media interest in Afghanistan recently in the UK following an award winning documentary 'Ross Kemp in Afghanistan' all of which would now seem to be a prelude to this story about Prince Harry. Was this documentary shown in the US?
 
  • #8
I think that him serving this way is so impressive next to all of the U.S. senators, etc. whose kids avoid the draft and military service so frequently. Way to go Prince Harry. Good choice of the Gurkhas too in a valiant effort to keep it under wraps…
 
  • #9
When in Britain the security services go to great lengths to ensure nobody gets a sample of his DNA. I wonder if the same precautions were in place in Afghanistan or will some squaddy make himself a fortune selling it to the tabloid press.

The reason they were after his DNA was to establish if there was any truth to the rumour he was fathered by James Hewitt (Captain Underpants) with whom Diana was having an affair around the time of Harry's conception and who like Harry had striking red hair.
 
  • #10
Art said:
There's been a lot of media interest in Afghanistan recently in the UK following an award winning documentary 'Ross Kemp in Afghanistan' all of which would now seem to be a prelude to this story about Prince Harry. Was this documentary shown in the US?

Not that I know of, Art.

Like CQ, I admire him very much for not taking the easy road. Too bad this story leaked - it must be very frustrating for him.
 
  • #11
He was called the "bullet magnet" by his fellow soldiers. Yes, this is unfair and dangerous to the rest of the troops.

Prince Harry is a little scary. I heard him quoted as saying that now all of his dreams have come true. Given that he was only there for a few months, it sounds to me like his real motive was to prove himself to others rather than serving out of a sense of duty to country or cause - he was willing to risk the lives of others in order to impress his friends and family.

Note that he didn't travel with the rest of the troops. Instead, he rode around in a special helicopter.
 
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  • #12
I know the media agreed and weren't forced, but I wonder what else they could be convinced to agree on if it was deemed to be 'for the best'. I also wonder whether it would have been so bad to release the fact that he was going to the front line, but just keep quiet about the location and regiment. That would still make him impossible to target.
 
  • #13
To be honest, I feel bad for the guy. He obviously wanted to be there, and now because of the media attention, he is going to have to leave. He must be very angry, and I wouldn't blame him. He didn't ask to be born a prince and have the status he has. All the guy wants is to be normal and be treated like anyone else.
 
  • #14
turbo-1 said:
The silence of the media was for good reason. They agreed that Harry would be a high-value target, and the Taliban might make special efforts to take him out. The concentrated attention on his unit would place all members of his unit at higher-than-normal risk for death and injury. I expect that they will send him back home or put him in some less-dangerous support position to reduce the risks to him and the members of his unit.

Don't give Harry more importance than he has. His death would be purely symbolic... what does he worth aside of being known for being known? Is he aware of some kind of military secret? Is playing polo considered politic? Is he some kind of supersoldier than makes him more efficient than Sunderland's first yobs? His death would be totaly irrelevant and he is no more important than Paris Hilton's.He could make a good bait though, how many terrorists would be ready to endanger their lives to kill him (and what for)?
 
  • #15
I suspect because of who he is, Taliban and insurgents/terrorists would try harder to kill him than others. On the other hand, for the most part, he is no more danger than any other soldier in the field.

I'm puzzled as to why it seems acceptable to put any young soldier at risk as opposed to a celebrity.

I admire him for serving as opposed to avoiding service like so many political leaders. At least he can argue that he would not be asking a soldier to do something he hadn't done himself, which is not case for politicians like Bush or Cheney.
 
  • #16
Astronuc said:
I suspect because of who he is, Taliban and insurgents/terrorists would try harder to kill him than others. On the other hand, for the most part, he is no more danger than any other soldier in the field.

I'm puzzled as to why it seems acceptable to put any young soldier at risk as opposed to a celebrity.

I admire him for serving as opposed to avoiding service like so many political leaders. At least he can argue that he would not be asking a soldier to do something he hadn't done himself, which is not case for politicians like Bush or Cheney.

I guess some talibans could focus on him (which would expose them more because he is certainly well defended) but I guess talibans with brains would rather try to get his commander.

PS: at least Cheney and Bush are deciders in that their loss could bring confusions in the states, at least for a moment. That cannot be said about Harry.
 
  • #17
It is not only that they would want to kill him,;more likely they would want to capture him for ransom. The British government doesn't want to deal with the scenario of Harry being held hostage by the Taliban. Talk about a media circus, that would be insane!
 
  • #18
Harry has been removed. What is wrong with the media that leaked this, do they have no brains or scruples? That's a rhetorical question, btw.
 
  • #19
Evo said:
Harry has been removed. What is wrong with the media that leaked this, do they have no brains or scruples? That's a rhetorical question, btw.

It was reportedly leaked on the Drudge Report. :rolleyes:

I don't think silencing the media in a war theater is the same as muzzling the press on other issues. Even without a prince on the front lines, there may be information that the media have access to which needs to be kept secret...troop positions and numbers, weapon capability...that sort of thing.
 
  • #20
Prince Harry Finds Anonymity in Afghanistan
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=87792380
Morning Edition, February 29, 2008 · The Drudge Report broke a news blackout that had been in effect for two and a half months about Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan. Michael Evans, defense editor for the Times of London, talks to Renee Montagne about why the British media had kept his deployment a secret.
 
  • #21
CaptainQuasar said:
I think that him serving this way is so impressive next to all of the U.S. senators, etc. whose kids avoid the draft and military service so frequently. Way to go Prince Harry.
Ridiculous. There is no US draft, nothing to 'avoid.' Many members of Congress and officials in the administration have children in the service including Iraq and Afghanistan. Notably, Sen McCain has a son in the USMC who served in Iraq, as has Sen Webb.
 
  • #22
Astronuc said:
I suspect because of who he is, Taliban and insurgents/terrorists would try harder to kill him than others. On the other hand, for the most part, he is no more danger than any other soldier in the field.

I'm puzzled as to why it seems acceptable to put any young soldier at risk as opposed to a celebrity.
Because, if its know he's in A, a) his celebrity would draw concentrated enemy forces against his small unit in which case he would be in greater danger, and b) the enemy could do great political damage to the fight in A. by holding him hostage - not the case w/ the average soldier.

I admire him for serving as opposed to avoiding service like so many political leaders. At least he can argue that he would not be asking a soldier to do something he hadn't done himself, which is not case for politicians like Bush or Cheney.
Arg. The logic of this argument is that no one can hold executive office in the US unless they fought in a combat zone (not even just served), so out go Sen's Clinton and Obama.
 
  • #23
mheslep said:
Ridiculous. There is no US draft, nothing to 'avoid.' Many members of Congress and officials in the administration have children in the service including Iraq and Afghanistan. Notably, Sen McCain has a son in the USMC who served in Iraq, as has Sen Webb.

I wasn't talking about a present U.S. draft, of course. Thanks for presuming I was so that you could call me ridiculous.

As far as the “many” members of Congress with children in the service, are you talking about the kind of numbers like http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=73976" (USA Today, 2007) children of members of Congress who go to war? Out of the 535 individuals who are the ones who decide to send us to war, to send my relatives to war? Exactly as I pointed out, that is not a very high frequency. It is not “ridiculous” to be underwhelmed or even a bit pissed off about that.

Yeah, I know McCain has a son who's a Marine. As I've said elsewhere on PF I think he's an upstanding guy and I've voted for him before.
 
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  • #24
mheslep said:
Arg. The logic of this argument is that no one can hold executive office in the US unless they fought in a combat zone (not even just served), so out go Sen's Clinton and Obama.
Not all. Anyone can become president by meeting the particular requirements and being elected to office.

If I was president, I wouldn't ask someone else to do what I wouldn't do myself.


The president should not be so cavalier about risking the lives of other people, especially when the use of military force is based on a personal agenda, not a real threat to the nation.
 
  • #25
CaptainQuasar said:
I wasn't talking about a present U.S. draft, of course. Thanks for presuming I was so that you could call me ridiculous.
The statement as worded was nonsense. Clarify if you wish.

As far as the “many” members of Congress with children in the service, are you talking about the kind of numbers like http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=73976". Second, the number nine is only kids that have served in Iraq, that doesn't count Afghanistan nor the rest of the armed services; not all of the ~800,000 US service folk can go Iraq. Third, just how many is a good number? Even the ratio 9/525 (1.7%) is higher than the population at large (~0.08%); given the high average age of congressional members its likely far higher.
 
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  • #26
Astronuc said:
...If I was president, I wouldn't ask someone else to do what I wouldn't do myself...
A nice sentiment, but as Presidents can't prove themselves by parachuting into battle, it only has practical meaning if worded in the past tense as was the earlier "he hadn't done himself..". - Thus the sentiment requires prior combat service for office, or the disbanding of the thence unusable armed services.

The president should not be so cavalier about risking the lives of other people, especially when the use of military force is based on a personal agenda, not a real threat to the nation.
Agreed.
 
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  • #27
mheslep said:
The statement as worded was nonsense. Clarify if you wish.

Speaking of the children of Congressmen avoiding a draft is in no way nonsensical or unintelligible. You're being completely pejorative to pretend it is. But I certainly could have emphasized that it's the action of the Congressmen themselves to send the children of others to war with collectively little risk to their own that is underwhelming.

mheslep said:
There's so many things wrong w/ this. First, Prince Harry is not the son of a politician who had any say what so ever about Iraq. He's the son of a celebrity, is one himself and there's http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/football/nfl/04/23/tillman.killed/index.html" . Second, the number nine is only kids that have served in Iraq, that doesn't count Afghanistan nor the rest of the armed services; not all of the ~800,000 US service folk can go Iraq. Third, just how many is a good number? Even the ratio 9/525 (1.7%) is higher than the population at large (~0.08%); given the high average age of congressional members its likely far higher.

None of what you say here demonstrates anything “wrong” with my sentiment or my facts. What you say above does not make Prince Harry's choice to serve in the military less admirable. And I didn't say anything about comparing ratios of children in military service between the Congress and the general population. The two percent of them who have children in the military do not make the 98% of them who sent other people's children off to war, resulting in thousands of them getting killed, more impressive or more admirable.

It's about supporting the troops over supporting the Congress. But you're certainly free to disagree with that sentiment and call it wrong and nonsensical if you wish.

Here's another way of saying it: Prince Harry seems to have made his country's risk his own personal risk, at least to some degree. Many members of Congress do not do that at all.
 
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  • #28
Astronuc said:
I admire him for serving as opposed to avoiding service like so many political leaders. At least he can argue that he would not be asking a soldier to do something he hadn't done himself, which is not case for politicians like Bush or Cheney.

But Harry isn't a political leader, and he probably never will be. Even if he were, comparing him to your president is not a fair comparison. The monarch of England is, nowadays, merely a symbolic position. I mean yes, there is the opportunity to veto laws passed by parliament, but that will never happen, since that would be vetoing the democratic decisions made by the country. Now, I'm not saying that the monarchy is useless-- far from it, since it brings in a LOT of money to the country-- but the person running the country is without doubt the prime minister.

Still, I think it was a stupid idea to let Harry take part in active service. The fact is that we are not living in the 14th century where each member of the royal family leads troops into battle, we're in the 21st century with a culture of hostage taking and massive media coverage. I'd hate to imagine what would happen if a member of the royal family got taken hostage, and it's just stupid to put one of our royal family in that position.

Of course, one could argue that Harry most probably was not in any danger. I doubt the security services would let him be in any real danger, and I'm sure they were watching over him!
 
  • #29
cristo said:
Of course, one could argue that Harry most probably was not in any danger. I doubt the security services would let him be in any real danger, and I'm sure they were watching over him!

You can guarantee there were secret squads near by him to help if he were in real danger. Heck he prolly had secret undercover bodyguards he thought were locals.
 
  • #30
Not to take away from his actions but despite the hype he wasn't treated exactly the same as all other British troops. He had a 24 hr personal bodyguard of Gurkha's to take care of him over there and his personal security back home has now been beefed up. He was also accompanied by news film crews throughout much of his 10 weeks so although Harry may believe he was 'doing a real job' I wonder just how real it really was. I suspect he was simply an unwitting PR tool for the gov't and military.
 
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  • #31
cristo said:
But Harry isn't a political leader, and he probably never will be. Even if he were, comparing him to your president is not a fair comparison. The monarch of England is, nowadays, merely a symbolic position. I mean yes, there is the opportunity to veto laws passed by parliament, but that will never happen, since that would be vetoing the democratic decisions made by the country. Now, I'm not saying that the monarchy is useless-- far from it, since it brings in a LOT of money to the country-- but the person running the country is without doubt the prime minister.

Well the last time a monarch tried to veto an act of parliament was in 1707 by Queen Anne, and that was passed anyway. So their powers are merely formal. And parliament has the right to remove any formal powers anyway.

That said I'm not cynical enough to believe this was a PR stunt, he wanted to serve. And to be frank putting yourself as the leader of a tank unit, that goes into enemy territory and calls down air support on enemy targets is not the best method of keeping yourself safe, nor is it a plea to say look at me aren't I x. I'm by no means a royalist but this is what it is IMO.

Greg Bernhardt said:
You can guarantee there were secret squads near by him to help if he were in real danger. Heck he prolly had secret undercover bodyguards he thought were locals.

To be honest as said no one recognised him in the field, and of course but he was still in danger. I say give the guy a break and as a cynic about the royal family, that is unusual coming from me.
 
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  • #32
cristo said:
But Harry isn't a political leader, and he probably never will be. Even if he were, comparing him to your president is not a fair comparison. The monarch of England is, nowadays, merely a symbolic position. I mean yes, there is the opportunity to veto laws passed by parliament, but that will never happen, since that would be vetoing the democratic decisions made by the country. Now, I'm not saying that the monarchy is useless-- far from it, since it brings in a LOT of money to the country-- but the person running the country is without doubt the prime minister.
True, the royal family is not involved as political leaders or in the operation of the government as is the PM or MP's, they Harry and others are in a better position to affect policy if they so choose.

I'd hate to imagine what would happen if a member of the royal family got taken hostage, and it's just stupid to put one of our royal family in that position.
It's stupid to put anyone in the position of being killed or kidnapped, but that is what GW Bush and Tony Blair did with the troops. They certainly didn't put themselves in any danger, as is the case with most modern political leaders.

Of course, one could argue that Harry most probably was not in any danger. I doubt the security services would let him be in any real danger, and I'm sure they were watching over him!
Maybe. I certainly don't know how much danger or how close to danger he really was.
 
  • #33
matthyaouw said:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7269743.stm
My emphasis.

This worries me. While I understand the potential security risk of letting the enemy know the whereabouts of the prince, I question the practice of an agreed media silence. Should the MoD, royal family or government have the power to stop the media reporting an important story? Not so much with regard to this circumstance, but in general. Who gets to decide what we find out and what we don't? I don't want to see the day when bad news is simply buried and denied.

What are people's thoughts?

How was this an important story? If something had happened to Harry, this would be a big story, but not an important story. This wasn't a story that really affected the public good. Breaking the story would be somewhat irresponsible. It probably wouldn't endanger anyone since Harry would be yanked out of his unit as soon as the story broke. The news organization breaking the story runs the risk of becoming more of a story than Harry.

Somewhat - I'd be surprised if the Drudge Report gets trashed by other news organizations too much since they're probably happy to have the chance to put out whatever stories they gained by keeping his deployment secret. I think most are just glad that it some other news organizations besides them that let the cat out of the bag.

You've seen the same thing from the US media. You almost never hear about Congressmens' sons fighting in the war and the media never reports on their location or their unit. During the Afghanistan invasion, you didn't even see the last names of the average serviceman fighting there. Considering the fear of terrorism right after 9/11, it seemed reckless to provide information someone could use to track back to the serviceman's family.

During the initial invasion, the embedded reporters did a very good job of handling sensitive information while still giving the public a good feel for how the invasion was going. I thought David Bloom's reports were great.

The news media can act responsibly when they see the need to do so.
 
  • #34
Astronuc said:
...It's stupid to put anyone in the position of being killed or kidnapped, but that is what GW Bush and Tony Blair did with the troops.
I'm not sure what this means. To send anyone, anytime into combat is stupid?
 

Related to British prince on the front line- agreed media silence.

1. What is the reason for the agreed media silence surrounding the British prince on the front line?

The agreed media silence is due to the fact that the British Royal Family has a long-standing tradition of keeping their military service private. This is to protect the privacy and safety of the prince and his fellow soldiers.

2. Is this media silence a common practice for all members of the British Royal Family who serve in the military?

Yes, this is a common practice for all members of the British Royal Family who serve in the military. This tradition dates back to World War II when King George VI wanted to protect the privacy of his daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, who were serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

3. How long is the media silence expected to last?

The media silence is expected to last for the duration of the prince's deployment on the front line. Once he returns, the media will be able to report on his service and experiences.

4. Are there any exceptions to the media silence for the prince's service?

No, there are no exceptions to the media silence for the prince's service. This is a strict tradition that is followed by all members of the British Royal Family who serve in the military.

5. Will the prince's service be acknowledged by the British Royal Family or the media in any way?

Yes, the prince's service will be acknowledged by the British Royal Family and the media once he has completed his deployment. It is likely that there will be a formal announcement and possibly a public event to honor his service.

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