The Dearth of Drone Coverage

Why isn’t the Western media covering drone attacks more consistently?
By: /
November 30, 2012

Yesterday in Pakistan two attacks took place. The first, widely reported by the North American media and Western Europe, saw Pakistan military leader Mullah Nazir injured in a suicide bombing. Seven have been reported dead. The second was a drone attack that targeted a vehicle carrying three militants, including “foreigners” – a term used to describe Arab al-Qaeda operatives. Three have been announced dead. Reports of the drone attack have not appeared in the Western media as of yet, other than the “Long War Journal”, an American blog that reports on the War on Terror, while reports of the suicide bombing are widespread (here, and here).

Why isn’t the Western media covering drone attacks more consistently, especially ones that eliminate a terrorist target with zero unintended casualties, not to mention at low costs? Canadians and Americans alike are proud of their military; Canada leapt to the collective defence of General Leslie following scathing comments from Fox News, and while the CBC and Sun News may squabble over the definition of appropriate, they both support the men and women that serve and their families. Following the completed U.S. assassination of Osama Bin Laden, President Obama praised the work of the service men involved: “We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.” So, why not tout the successes of the forces when it comes to the use of drone technology?

A recent Guardian article stressed that it is because soldiers are not placed in harms way during a drone attack that the military becomes “sheepish” when it reports on drone use: drones, “piloted by remote control from thousands of miles away, … have been the one unqualified military triumph of the war in Afghanistan.” Perhaps it is the lack of accountability or the general secrecy of these missions that detracts the Western media from reporting on them. Or, as the report “Living Under Drones” suggests, drones may not be as effective as they are made out to be.

The report is critical of the drone campaign in Pakistan, arguing that drones are not the precise, accurate, and limited weapon they have been portrayed to be: “the civilian toll from drone strikes is far higher than acknowledged”;  “many problems with the drone campaign go unreported”; and “government transparency is essential to gaining a better understanding of the campaign and its consequences.”

But the media isn’t the only group not publishing news of drone attacks. In a previous post, we discussed the lack of information around drones and their use with reference to Josh Begley, a New York-based app developer, who “created an app that aggregates the Bureau’s data on drone strikes and sends users a push notification whenever there is a new report of a drone strike. Apple has rejected the Drone+ app three times, and continually blocked it from the App store on grounds that the content is ‘objectionable and crude’.”

Why is the use of drones shrouded in such secrecy? "DRONE WEEK: KILL, WATCH, AID", hosted by OpenCanada in partnership with CDFAI from Dec. 10th to 14th 2012, will explore this question and many more. Remember to tune in.