Press Restrictions Must GO: Media Leaders Join Together to Protest Persian Gulf War Coverage Restrictions; Cite Problems, Call for a Meeting with Defense Secretary
Gersh, Debra, Editor & Publisher
Press restrictions must GO
The war in the Persian Gulf may officially be over, but the battle for more press freedom of coverage rages on.
In a follow-up to a letter sent this spring to Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by 15 Washington bureau chiefs (E&P, May 11, P. 21), 17 leaders U.S. media have sent Cheney another letter and a report that describes the Gulf war as "the most under-covered major conflict in modern American history." They have also requested a meeting with Cheney.
"We believe the Pentagon pool arrangements during Operation Desert Storm made it impossible for reporters and photographers to tell the public the full story of the war in a timely fashion," the letter stated. "Moreover, we believe it is imperative that the Gulf war not serve as a model for future coverage."
The letter was signed by Roone Arledge, president, ABC News; James K. Batten, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, Knight-Ridder Inc.; Louis D. Boccardi, president and CEO, the Associated Press, who also was designated to arrange the meeting with Cheney; Max Frankel, executive editor, the New York Times; Peter S. Prichard, editor, USA Today; Michael G. Gartner, president, NBC News; Katharine Graham, chairman of the board, the Washington Post Co.; Tom Johnson, president, CNN; Peter Kann, publisher and president, the Wall Street Journal; David Laventhol, publisher, the Los Angeles Times; Jason McManus, editor in chief, Time Warner Inc.; Donald Newhouse, president, the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.; Eric Ober, president, CBS News; Burl Osborne, publisher and editor, the Dallas Morning News; Arnold Rosenfeld, editor in chief, Cox Newspapers; Al Rossiter Jr., senior vice president/executive editor, United Press International; and Richard M. Smith, editor in chief and president, Newsweek Inc.
Along with the letter and report was a Statement of Principles which the signers believe "should govern future arrangements for news coverage of the United States military in combat."
The ten principles are:
* "Independent reporting will be the principles means of coverage of U.S. military operations.
* "The use of pools should be limited to the kind envisioned by the Sidle Commission. Pools are meant to bring a representative group of journalists along with the first elements of any major U.S. military operation. These pools should last no longer than the very first stages of deployment - the initial 24 hours to 36 hours - and should be disbanded rapidly in favor of independent coverage. Pools are not to serve as the standard means of covering U.S. forces.
* "Some pools may be appropriate for events or in places where open coverage is physically impossible, but the existence of such special-purpose pools will not cancel the principle of independent coverage. If news organizations are able to cover pooled events independently, they may do so.
* "Journalists in a combat zone will be credentialed by the U.S. military and will be required to abide by a clear set of military security guidelines that protect U.S. forces and their operations. Violation of the guidelines can result in suspension of credentials or revocation of credentials and expulsion from the combat zone.
* "Journalists will be provided access to all major military units.
* "Military public affairs officers should act as liaisons but should not interfere with the reporting process.
* "News material - words and pictures - will be not subject to prior military security review.
* "The military will be responsible for the transportation of pools. Field commanders should be instructed to permit journalists to ride on military vehicles and aircraft whenever feasible.
* "The military will supply PAOs [public affairs officers] with timely, secure, compatible transmission facilities for pool material and will make these facilities available whenever possible for filing independent coverage. …