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Veteran Newsmen Can Live with Press Pools: Acknowledge Press Censorship during Persian Gulf War Was Onerous but Say If Wartime Pools Are Inevitable, Improvements Must Be Made

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Veteran Newsmen Can Live with Press Pools: Acknowledge Press Censorship during Persian Gulf War Was Onerous but Say If Wartime Pools Are Inevitable, Improvements Must Be Made

Article excerpt

Veteran newsmen can live with press pools

Acknowledge press censorship during Persian Gulf war was onerous but say if wartime pools are inevitable, improvements must be made

Three experienced newsmen told the 40th annual assembly of the International Press Institute meeting in Kyoto, Japan, that, although the pool arrangements and the censorship of news during the Persian Gulf war were onerous and helped sanitize the news reports, they thought some form of this arrangement would be present in the event of any future conflict.

Alvin Shuster, foreign editor of the Los Angeles Times, Claude Moisy, president of Agence France-Presse, and Mark Damazer, editor of 9 O'Clock News on the BBC, gave their versions of the difficulties faced in covering the war news but agreed that some version would prevail in the future.

On a panel discussion, "The Gulf War and the Media," Shuster said that "it would depend on the nature of any future conflict, but this pool system or some variation of it seems here to stay, whether we like it or not . . . . If we are to live with this, and in principle it can be made to work, there should be a new and much-improved model with many more pool slots. This dearth of slots in the Gulf forced reporters in the field to vie -- often viciously -- with one another for the precious opening. The result was often chaos and recriminations, sometimes to the undisguised glee of the Pentagon's information officers.

"What we need are pools plus more slots, more cooperation from the military, and more opportunity to go out on our own to conduct interviews without the inhibiting presence of so-called escort officers telling us what the corporal really meant.

"We, the media, may have to draft general concepts and procedures for the next time around and insist beforehand on their implementation, and, apart from other improvements, let's hope for a higher overall quality of the pool reports themselves."

Moisy thought there was something childish and arrogant in the complaints of the press. He thought some sort of censorship was necessary.

"It is naive to assume that the military and politicians will not try to manipulate the press," he said. "It is our job to keep from being manipulated."

Damazer pointed out many inconsistencies in the censorship and handling of the press but agreed there will be rules and there will be censorship in the event of a future conflict.

Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress, gave credit to the international press "for performing a singularly good service for the cause of democracy in South Africa, not being propagandists on behalf of ANC, but merely by reporting events in South Africa over the last decade. I am so personally deeply indebted to the international press who kept my name and that of other political prisoners alive and before the international public. In its way, that assisted in finally achieving our release.

"Freedom of the media and the press is among the old and most valued freedoms for which people of the world over have fought," he said. "The ANC has extended its solidarity and shall continue to support journalists, editors, writers and other media people who face persecution because they exercise this right. …

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