Super Bowl in Defense Committee?

(To Andrea Cucco)

In independent journalism, in addition to so much bitterness, occasionally we encounter really spontaneous episodes. The last one deserves to be told.

Last February a colleague with different experiences abroad, also following our armed forces, wrote for Difesa Online a discussion on the "embedded" journalists who are hosted - free - in military missions.

A historical figure of great importance, as he correctly argued in his work "Frank Montana" (read article). It was a pity that, at closing, he revealed a secret to Pulcinella (at least for workmen):

"It is a pity that in recent years the possibility of following the Italian armed forces from embedded has been, if not reset, "very small". As a military costume, we do not want to sympathize with precise political choices here ... "

Open sky! On the very day of the publication we received praise and support from many journalists. Colleagues to whom we responded "but if you all knew and did not agree, why did we have to raise the question first ...?"

"Because now with ... .. that will take you to an operational theater!", In short, the general answer. Since the governments, despite someone you think, are not (more ...) eternal and that to be embeddati for years we have renounced even to hope, the reply has left us soberly indifferent.

But let's go back to the article. Among the thousands of readers, there was evidently someone from the defense committee (5 Movement Stars in particular) who was not watching and asked for more information to the defense minister, through a question ...

Request query in committee 5-10683

presented by

RIZZO Gianluca

text of

Thursday 23 February 2017, session no. 747

  RIZZO, BASIL, ROPE, grosbeak e Tofalo. - To the Minister of Defense, to the Minister of Health. - To know - given that:
the «
embedded"Are journalists specializing in particular subjects, who follow the military in their missions in operating theaters and in the exercises;
their function is to write, produce videos,
report and conferences on the complex world of military activities, facilitating the knowledge of the public that, through their precious work, is able to understand how the money spent on defense is spent and how the Italian soldiers are appreciated for their preparation and skills. other nations and local populations;
journalists «
embedded"Travel and follow the armed forces in the theaters, inter alia, without affecting the Ministry of Defense's budgets, as they are sent by the newspaper headlines for which they work or act in their own right .;
the current legislation provides for journalists seeking to provide services on quotas engaged in missions to "provide the necessary assistance to accredited media (including hospitality and logistical support) only with the permission of the Public Security Bureau (SMD-PI) single referent for theater accreditation. PI officers in the theater must assist media practitioners by providing explicit information, photographic material, documentation, and organizing visits to national departments, upon signature of a release statement. ";
SMD-PI works every year to carry out training courses in accordance with the Italian Federation of Italian Press (FNSI), the Cutuli ONLUS Foundation,
Institute for Global Studies (IGS) to train the press organs to deal with crisis areas;
a press article appeared on «"Title" THERE WERE (ONE YEAR) THE "EMBEDDED"», And rightly specifies that «the military, therefore, could use the writings of the embedded, even with the various criticisms, to improve or to understand what different eyes they have found on the field. It is an important and valuable value added ";
it seems to the interrogators that a strong debate is taking place between those who request to be able to follow the activities of the armed forces in the various operational scenarios where they are sent and the General Staff of Defense; in fact, the journalistic article thus concludes: "Too bad that in recent years the possibility of following the Italian armed forces from 
embedded has been, if not zeroed, "very reduced". As a custom of the military, we do not want to unify precise political choices here ... »-:
how many journalists and communication operators have been carrying out activities following the Italian armed forces in the last 20 years, indicating, for each year, what operating theater abroad and how many of them were already members of the armed forces. (5-10683)


The answer was shocking.

Written answer published Thursday 30 March 2017
in the Annex to the Bulletin in Commission IV (Defense)

In response to the question posed by the questioner, I believe I can state that Defense has always encouraged without reservations, in total transparency and with the only limits imposed by operational security, any media activity aimed at documenting, at home and abroad, the work of our soldiers for the common security. As can be deduced from the information I am about to share, the Dicastery has guaranteed to journalists - and also to writers - effective support and full reception in all the most important theaters of operation.
In particular, media advocacy activities are documented since 2002, the year in which the practice was regulated in order to harmonize media requirements with those of an operational nature. From 2002 to today, the Supreme Defense Ministry has sent 2305 information bodies to 16 theater operators. For a complete list of time economies and for easier consultation, I have considered it appropriate to produce it as an annex to this response.
The numbers mentioned above are then added to the numerous media that have been active in the various areas of operation following the Defense Ministers and other institutional posts (President of the Republic, President of the Council, Chairs and other Declarations ) during their visits to the National Contingents. To all of them, Defense provided, with respect to operational safety, all the useful information and all the technical and logistical assistance needed to carry out their business.
But not only. I also want to point out that, in addition to the above-mentioned information providers, the Dicastery also supported the media who wanted to reach the operating theaters autonomously and that, using the Public Information Cells of the military contingents, they managed to their work efficiently, as evidenced by the many services and reportage made.
Commenting on the data just described, and in response to the questions raised by the interviewer, it should be noted that the flow of journalists to different theaters is not due to constant parameters over time, on the contrary, depending on multiple factors such as:
operational security, which varies in time and space and is the main point of assessment by the contingent commander on the feasibility of any media activity;
the journalistic interest in a given crisis area, which in turn varies according to the different stages of an operation (openness - consolidation of mission - closure) and in relation to events of particular importance in terms of operational, institutional or social nature;
the absence of cyclical criticalities such as, for example, contingent alterations, etc .;
the availability of air carriers;
the logistic receptiveness of the theaters of operation, which is particularly important for the newly opened theaters, great catalysts of media attention, but rarely able to support regular journalists' inflows, despite the constant commitment of Defense;
not least, the economic crisis of publishing, which has very limited influences and media outlets in theaters.

However, given the variables that may have affected the media flow to the theaters, I believe that the data provided and the considerations made have only one constant: the maximum support that Defense provides to reporters engaged in documenting the work of Italian military for the security and stability of all. We believe this support is an act heard before that due to the information organs, the public and our own soldiers.


Year 2002: 16, of which 7 in Afghanistan, 1 in Albania, 3 in Bosnia, 2 in Ethiopia / Eritrea and 3 in Kosovo;
Year 2003: 75, of which 17 in Afghanistan, 55 in Iraq and 3 in Kosovo;
Year 2004: 189 of which 30 in Afghanistan, 3 in Albania, 9 in Bosnia, 1 in Ethiopia / Eritrea, 119 in Iraq, 26 in Kosovo and 1 in the Indian Ocean;
Year 2005: 206 of which 104 in Afghanistan, 1 in Albania, 28 in Bosnia, 37 in Iraq, 26 in Kosovo, 2 in Lebanon, 1 in Malta, 1 in Palestine and 6 in Sudan;
Year 2006: 261 of which 48 in Afghanistan, 6 in Bosnia, 37 in Iraq, 43 in Kosovo, 127 in Lebanon;
Year 2007: 162 of which 68 in Afghanistan, 11 in Bosnia, 35 in Kosovo and 48 in Lebanon;
Year 2008: 112 of which 43 in Afghanistan, 4 in Bosnia, 3 in Chad, 6 in Iraq, 37 in Kosovo and 19 in Lebanon;
Year 2009: 215 of which 122 in Afghanistan, 4 in Bosnia, 5 in Chad, 27 in Iraq and 57 in Lebanon;
Year 2010: 212 of which 94 in Afghanistan, 2 in Bosnia, 3 in Haiti, 12 in Iraq, 54 in Kosovo and 47 in Lebanon;
Year 2011: 224 of which 150 in Afghanistan, 37 in Kosovo and 37 in Lebanon;
Year 2012: 194 of which 109 in Afghanistan, 19 in Kosovo, 63 in Lebanon and 3 in the Indian Ocean;
Year 2013: 159 of which 85 in Afghanistan, 26 in Kosovo and 48 in Lebanon;
Year 2014: 158 of which 68 in Afghanistan, 1 in Central Africa, 41 in Kosovo, 47 in Lebanon and 1 in Somalia;
Year 2015: 56 including 6 in Afghanistan, 1 in Central Africa, 6 in Iraq, 12 in Kosovo, 30 in Lebanon, and 1 in Somalia;
Year 2016: 46 of which 6 in Afghanistan, 1 in Hebron, 31 in Iraq, 3 in Kosovo and 5 in Lebanon; 
2017 Year (partial data, updated to March): 19, of which 7 in Iraq, 1 in Kosovo and 11 in Lebanon.

I said "shocking" for several reasons:

- because those who drafted the text clung to the mirrors to find a "technical" justification to even more obviously "political" choices;

- because, at last, he has made public the data that were previously "cordially and informally" denied;

- why in answering "the flow of journalists to the different theaters is not due to constant parameters over time, on the contrary, depending on multiple factors, such as: operational security, time and space change, and principal constituent of the contingent commander on the feasibility of any media activity"He pretends not to see that, on the contrary (see chart as an example), the number of journalists present in the crisis areas has followed faithfully the increase and not the reduction in operational risk;

- because "journalistic interest in a particular crisis area" is left to the media, not to anyone who receives an embedding request and does not follow it ...;

- because the phases of rotation of the contingents in the operational area are known and "understandably" reduce the presence of the media during the handover period, however the military managers of relations with reporters are now real "war veterans", they certainly don't need a month or two to "settle in" (and if so, the remaining 8/10 months?);

- why, with regard to the "availability of air carriers", we want to check the actual flight fill factor? Not to mention those "vip", with on board the political leaders whose stubborn words of comfort come from the keeping of soldiers showering with a bottle of water in the FOB (forward operating base) or COPs (combat outpost) Afghan ...

- because it is as clear as the appointment of the current minister embedding have collapsed from 158 2014 to 56 of 2015 to 46 2016.

But there is more and this is the most serious surprise. Years ago, running the 2006 year, the Prodi government stood on a very strong majority, when the dread of any of the parliamentarians of the heterogeneous majority could have dropped the government. That, in memory of all the military who engaged with enthusiasm, professionalism and passion for public information and communication, had long been called an "annus horribilis," a substantial censure ordered by the presidency of the council. Well, we see Now that the violent and traumatic cut of a hundred journalists - from 261 to 2006 to 162 in 2007 - was pretty much compared to the 46 of the bottom touching the 2016 with the Pinotti era.

And at least Prodi was, if not justifiable, at least comprehensible.

I hope that, on a forthcoming occasion, the minister himself will respond to personal political decisions and will not send an Undersecretary. For two reasons. The first is that every politician should take responsibility for his decisions and, if necessary, defend them even in the face of the worst criticism, if he is convinced. The second is that the current defense secretaries have direct experience of the overwhelming work of transparency carried out by the armed forces towards the fellow citizens: Alfano is the son of a pounder of the carabinieri and the on. Red a General Army Army Corps.

Dear Minister Pinotti, said to us, rather than responding in that way and with those data, was it not even better to censure that response?

(photo: ministry of defense)