The Wars You Don't See
This weekend a new film is released around the UK. In truth, it's unlikely to trouble the big Hollywood blockbusters - but it's creating waves nevertheless.
John Pilger made his name in South East Asia covering the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 70s. His is a particular type of journalism. He doesn't pretend to be impartial - he's a campaigner. In The Wars You Don't See he takes aim at the mainstream media - including the BBC. The charge is that in Iraq and Afghanistan - then and now - we beat the drums of war.
There's a lot of ancient history in the film: was the media too unquestioning of the White House and Downing Street; were we willing participants in a rush to judgement about Saddam's supposed "weapons of mass destruction". The arguments have been rehearsed many times - and are valid areas for debate.
But Pilger makes a more serious charge: that too often, the BBC and others only report conflict from the perspective of those who wage war, and not those who are, so often, the victims - the civilians. He claims that "embedding" reporters alongside the Armed Forces at best, distorts the story and worse, makes the media a mouthpiece for the military.
He's right to identify the danger - "embedding" only ever provides one piece of the jigsaw. That's why, in Baghdad and Kabul, the BBC - at some cost and risk - has bureaux that report the other bits of the story. In Iraq, Gabriel Gatehouse and Jim Muir have covered the threats to Baghdad's Christians, while in Kabul, our opinion poll this week focused on the attitudes of the people of Afghanistan - not the military.
But "embedding" does have real value. There are 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan - and more than 100,000 US service personnel. Theirs is an important perspective, and their operations an important part of the story. The security situation means, sometimes, it is only possible to travel to certain parts of the country as part of a military "embed".
Pilger's case is that the media has to toe the establishment line otherwise they don't get access. Tell that to John Simpson or to our Kabul correspondent, Paul Wood - neither of them shrinking violets. Relationships are more sophisticated than John Pilger would have us believe. UK embeds are covered by a set of agreements between the media and the Ministry of Defence: the so-called Green Book [169KB PDF] is available online for anybody to read.
A public protocol is a strange conspiracy.
Jon Williams is the BBC World News editor.