Magazine article The Quill

SPJ, SDX Foundation Name Boards of Directors

Magazine article The Quill

SPJ, SDX Foundation Name Boards of Directors

Article excerpt

A coalition of 11 journalism organizations and free-speech advocates, led by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, urged the Bush Administration and Congress to help maintain a free and autonomous press in the war on terrorism.

In the letter sent Oct. 17, the group asked the government to reinstate practices that serve the public and allow journalists to gather and disseminate information responsibly.

"As America fights a war like none before, there will be temptations to restrict information that the public needs" said SPJ President Al Cross, political reporter and columnist at The Courier-journal in Louisville. "We must be careful, in defending our country, that we not erode the freedoms that make America a beacon to the world."

Among the requests were that the government reaffirm guidelines that the Pentagon established after the Gulf War for coverage of combat operations, including the commitments to provide journalists with access to all major military units and to special forces where feasible; allow news organizations to use their own communications systems to file reports; and use press pools not as a standard device but only when specific circumstances dictate, such as when military action is conducted in remote areas.

The journalism groups said that if the government conducts security checks of news content, it should only be for the limited purpose of ensuring that troop movements and operations are properly protected. Reviews of news content should not include across-the-board rules that certain information may never be published.

"It is more important now than ever that government not needlessly restrict access to information," said Charles N. Davis, co-chairman of the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee. "Journalism has a critical role in a democratic society, a role that is threatened by the rush to secrecy. …

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