Military Operations and Media Coverage: The Interplay of Law and Legitimacy

Routledge Handbook on Military Ethics, Forthcoming

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-326

22 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2014 Last revised: 13 Nov 2015

Date Written: November 3, 2014


This chapter explores the challenges of carrying out military operations in an age that combines instant, round-the-clock news and Internet coverage with heightened attention to international law compliance and legitimacy. Media coverage of military operations not only informs the public about the events of conflicts near and far, but also plays a significant role in the determinations and perceptions of the success, legitimacy and lawfulness of military operations. With legitimacy at the heart of every military operation and international law compliance a centerpiece of the media and advocacy discourse, planning and execution of military operations does and must continue to incorporate both facts and perception about law and legitimacy into every aspect of decision-making. Finally, transparency has become the new buzzword with regard to United States operations — whether targeted strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles, detention operations or other actions. The legal and policy debates regarding transparency add an additional layer of complexity to this interplay between law, legitimacy and success and introduce challenging questions about where to find the right balance between the needs of the military in planning and executing operations and the needs and demands of the public and the press for information.

Keywords: law of armed conflict, media, legitimacy, international humanitarian law, drones, UAVs, transparency, Geneva Conventions, proportionality, distinction, law of war, armed conflict

Suggested Citation

Blank, Laurie R., Military Operations and Media Coverage: The Interplay of Law and Legitimacy (November 3, 2014). Routledge Handbook on Military Ethics, Forthcoming, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-326, Available at SSRN:

Laurie R. Blank (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-1711 (Phone)


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