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Pentagon rejects mixing media with ground troops

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  1. Newsgathering

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering         Nov 13, 2001    

Pentagon rejects mixing media with ground troops

  • Officials said access to U.S. troops in Central Asia will continue to be off-limits to reporters because of worries about political unrest.

Pentagon officials last week said the American news media would not be granted access to U.S. troops in Central Asia during the war on Afghanistan, citing concerns about how the presence of reporters there would affect the war.

In a Nov. 8 seminar sponsored by the Brookings Institution, news media groups openly discussed with military officials the need for greater wartime access. But Pentagon officials said the area would remain off limits to journalists because military and political leaders there worry that publicity could cause political unrest.

Chuck Lewis, Washington bureau chief for Hearst Newspapers, started the discussion, suggesting there must be a better way to cover American troops in Central Asia. Lewis noted that American reporters had difficulties in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War and are experiencing similar problems with the current war due to host nations’ sensibilities.

Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, agreed that the issue presented a problem. But she said the host nations in Central Asia don’t want their contributions broadcasted around the world because they believe Taliban sympathizers in their countries could cause problems.

Rear Adm. Craig Quigley responded by saying the host nations may have operational security concerns. But he said that even if the host country was fine with coverage, U.S. commanders in the region would have their own security concerns.

John Henry, Washington Bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, said he thinks the government’s credibility is hurt when they don’t allow journalists to talk to troops in certain areas. “This is frustrating for reporters who feel a sense of responsibility to keep the public informed about how the war is going and how the troops are doing,” Henry said in an interview today.

But Clarke told the news media that she thinks there is a lot of information coming out of the war in Afghanistan. And she said the Pentagon understands that Americans need to hear news about the war.

“The American people will stick with us as long as we are straight with them,” she said.

HP

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