Academic Master


“Permission to Engage” Documentary Analysis

In contemporary society, the role of government intervention within the functionality of mass media communication has always been subjected to various debating issues for the dynamics of freedom of the press, media regulations, and ethical considerations. This response paper tends to question these debating issues along with the collaborating role of government and mass media in producing ethical content. This paper will specifically question the prominent aspects of “freedom of speech or press” (Turow, 2019) and ethical guidelines concerning military operations which are covered by mass media communication by analyzing the documentary “Permission to Engage” (Tan et al., n.d.). This documentary is directed by Shuchen Tan.

The government has immense control over media communications in terms of media regulations and ethical considerations. Although media is allowed to have freedom of speech and press, media always has to follow protocols and principles formed by the government, military, and the state. Any media professional must view his or her ethical considerations before publishing or posting any type of content. The “Permission to Engage” is a documentary that revolves around the former U.S soldier and the families of victims who were killed by the “Crazy Horse” battalion in Iraq in 2007. After a WikiLeaks video went viral of U.S soldiers killing innocent civilians of Iraq, director Tan planned to make a documentary by interviewing the families of these victims to know about the whole picture behind this gruesome attack. The ex U.S soldier was also included in the interviews who was on duty over there. These sources were tracked down after the publishing of the video by WikiLeaks. This documentary is a valiant and fearless step towards showing war crime.

The first question which comes to my mind is that how this documentary truly exercises the freedom of speech and press along with following the protocols prescribed by the government and the U.S military system? The main objective of this documentary is to show the true side of collateral murder conducted by U.S troops in Iraq. However, this documentary is including the media content which is against the country‘s military system and national interest. Though this documentary truly exercises freedom of speech and press by showing the real picture of the killing incident in Iraq without the fear of the military and the government. However, this documentary fails to abide by the protocols of protecting military information and political interest. “Permission to Engage” goes against their principle of censorship of any kind of content which is against U.S military operations.

According to my perspective, Director Tan goes to a great extent on providing authentic content to serve his purpose to the public rather than involving fabricated information/ interviews in the documentary. He made sure to find the families of these victims and interview them to include authentic content in the documentary. The ethical considerations also include the protection of their subject’s identity and personal information. However, the documentary reveals sensitive content related to the identity of the ex U.S soldier. This documentary will surely put this soldier’s life in danger. The military officials will go after him after his interview against U.S military operations exercising collateral murder in the name of collateral damage. Therefore, director Tan should have kept Bob Steele’s ten questions of ethical considerations in mind. The two specific questions which should have been the focus of this documentary are “What are the possible consequences of my actions in the short term and the long term? What are my alternatives to maximize my truth-telling responsibility and minimize harm? (Turow, 2019)”. In a nutshell, media makers should keep their focus on protocols by the state and government, self-regulation, and ethical principles before publishing their content to the public.


Tan, S., McCord, E., & Steber, J. (n.d.). Permission to Engage [Documentary]. Vrijzinnig Protestantse Radio Omroep (VPRO).

Turow, J. (2019). Media Today: Mass Communication in a Converging World. Routledge.



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