Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

NRK on Afghanistan


Of: Kristian Fuglseth The propaganda and media wars flicker in front of us – but the volume and distance make us equally happy. We need to wake up, ask critical questions and look more closely at what is hidden in the flicker. Documentary creator John Pilger's text from the last issue (Ny Tid no. 11/15) shows the need to wake up or shimmer. When the Norwegian authorities measure the same NATO stories and instruments that Pilger, among others, testifies to, we must ask whether the Norwegian version is also propaganda. Before Norway withdrew from Afghanistan two years ago, NRK sent some of its most experienced journalists to Faryab province to investigate what the situation really was. They wanted to investigate whether there was truth in the polished and politically correct statements from directed news items. The soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan had long believed that the defense leadership and the political leadership embellished the image of the war, and now the soldiers wanted to tell their own version. The communications department in the Army had several times asked NRK to make a substantial documentary about Afghanistan. NRK had, of course, refused for security reasons, and because it would be on the Armed Forces' terms. When NRK finally decided to make a documentary series, it was a contribution to the public debate about Norwegian ISAF efforts, and at the same time a well-thought-out PR strategy in the Army's self-defense. In other words, a defense in the media war, but also in the real war. Peacekeeping, women's rights and democracy in Afghanistan did not go so well. Norwegian soldiers died, and the whole thing looked more and more like a war against its purpose. Norway at war? It took several years before Norwegian politicians could acknowledge that Norway was at war. The then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg went so far as to call it war-like acts. But the fact was that Norwegian soldiers died in Afghanistan in the war on terror. The Armed Forces' mission was to increase security for the civilian population and enable the Afghans themselves to secure and rebuild the country after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, but this operation had its price for the Armed Forces. After a quarter of an hour, it became clearer to NRK that a collaboration with the Armed Forces could serve both parties. From 2009, the debate about Norway's involvement in Afghanistan reached new heights after several deaths and weakened security. The debate revolves around the question of whether Norway took part in a war, or whether the forces in Afghanistan were peacekeepers. The Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan were in the middle of what they described as a war, while Norwegian politicians defended the effort by saying that they were part of the international peacekeeping force. In order for NRK to fulfill its social mission, at least before TV2 got ahead of them, they had to document more of what happened in Afghanistan. That was also the goal of the Army. The debate had to reflect more insight into the realities on the ground – preferably as the soldiers knew them on the body. NRK's ​​documentary series Norway at war – mission Afghanistan was sent between April 25 and June 1, 2011. One of the central characters, Colonel Rune Solberg, illustrated the discouragement that the Norwegian soldiers felt by describing the mission as follows: "It is about setting a limit for evil and promoting it good. " Through the documentary series, we got to see how this view was reinforced to a desperate like-minded person without room for critical questions. NRK and the Armed Forces. The documentary series is a good example of how a media war is a negotiation of the truth. Interestingly enough, this negotiation can be traced to the written agreement that was written between NRK and the Armed Forces before the filming started. The agreement clearly states what the goal is for the Armed Forces, and NRK's ​​social mission has been clarified. Some points have been negotiated by the Armed Forces, and other points have been written by NRK. Both parties had to give up something, at the same time as they got something eighteenth. Balance in coverage is a key problem. NRK was dependent on the Armed Forces ensuring the safety of the journalists, and then had to give up the freedom to talk to the civilian population without the soldiers hanging over their shoulders. The defense, on the other hand, had to let the soldiers speak freely to NRK, but the characters were chosen in advance. NRK was given the opportunity to film everything that happened on assignment, but had to accept that the film should be reviewed before broadcast. It is difficult to carry out the social mission in the embedding system [enlistment, editor's note], and war reporters are seldom closed in the attempt. The last episode starts with a text poster in which a statement from Colonel Solberg is quoted: "Human rights, women's rights […] there is no point in thinking the idea once." PR-documentary. What did NRK find in Afghanistan? Did the glossy picture from the news reports vote? Far from it. In fact, it was the soldiers themselves who got to be the narrators in NRK's ​​documentary series. They talked about too little strength to make a difference. Between the lines, the message was even worse – namely that the tactics produced violence instead of peace. It was a Norwegian force, out of place in a city they did not feel comfortable or belonged to. With a problem one did not know how to solve, and a culture no one understood. Highest known this? It is enough to turn eighteen to Pilger's text. His account of war and propaganda – from before the first war, and long after the last. There are many such stories and documents to choose from. Norway at war – mission Afghanistan captivated the audience over time, and when one put this into the legitimate NRK framework in prime time, it gave the messages and the soldiers credibility. What emerged was that the soldiers and their leadership were also negotiating the truth. The soldiers had to defend themselves against the Taliban, but also against the polished NATO propaganda about the peacekeeping in their mission. They were asked the question: Where will the peace go, and why will the poor locals take the life of diving? The Armed Forces, for their part, had an overriding goal of implementing the defense policy in force at any given time, and creating interest in and debate around themselves. The Armed Forces wanted to strengthen its reputation, credibility and legitimacy. Increased knowledge gave greater acceptance for the Armed Forces' activities. They got it by documenting the value of society. In this way, the NRK documentary was also part of the media war, and simply a PR documentary with the Army as narrator. Politics and propaganda. When NRK made a documentary in which the Armed Forces is so closely involved, the difficult tasks were visible, and the Armed Forces' challenges were clear. But the NRK series also helped point the finger at the adopted defense policy. The polished statements in directed news broadcasts did not hold water when they were tested on the ground in Afghanistan. This time, too, large-scale military operations were launched without a clear purpose. The documentary could have been clearer, but the way NRK solved it probably meant that the defense leadership had no choice but to let the series be broadcast. From the first episodes we got a picture of the Armed Forces' challenges, but not until the last episodes came a kind of confirmation that even though the Armed Forces is doing the best they can, they were set to do impossible tasks. The policy could not be implemented. The last episode starts with a text poster in which a statement from Colonel Solberg is quoted: "Human rights, women's rights […] there is no point in thinking the idea once." Politics put the soldiers in a desperate situation, while the rest of us walk around here at home in a like-minded way, snuggling into the flicker from one media war to another. Norway is responsible for NATO's common military strategy, one for all, all for one – and that strategy also means that we accept propaganda. If NATO wins peacekeeping, it is a peacekeeping mission. Is it not a paradox – that despite all the information we have available, despite the fact that the truth may be clearer than ever, it still seems that we prefer the same propaganda as usual?

Kristian Fuglseth is a university lecturer at the Department of Media Studies at Volda University College, researches political communication and has written, among other things, «Documentary or PR? An analysis of the documentary series Norway at war – mission Afghanistan" in the book Where does the documentary go? New trends in film, television and online.

You may also like