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Reporters Committee objects to Pentagon treatment of reporters

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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is seeking a meeting with Department of Defense officials to discuss the…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is seeking a meeting with Department of Defense officials to discuss the expulsion of four experienced reporters who have been banned from reporting on military commission proceedings at Guantanamo Bay.

Reporters Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of The Globe and Mail, and Steven Edwards of Canwest News Service were kicked out of the proceedings because they published the name of a previously publicly identified U.S. army interrogator who is a witness in an ongoing proceeding.

The Pentagon sent a letter on Thursday to the four news organizations that employ the reporters, declaring that the individual journalists may no longer cover proceedings at Guantanamo.

“The Pentagon’s banishment order makes no common sense with regard to this particular witness,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “People who have been following the Guantanamo military commissions have known for several years the identity of this witness. To our knowledge, these reporters have been respectful of all other directives regarding the extremely restrictive reporting rules at Guantanamo,” Dalglish said.

The order arises out of the pre-trial proceedings of Omar Khadr, a Canadian detainee who is charged with five war crimes, including allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. solider during battle. The presiding judge in the case had ruled that the U.S. army interrogator could only be identified as “Interrogator No. 1.” However, the name of Interrogator No. 1 had previously been released to the public on multiple occasions, including during his court-martial in 2005 and in an on-the-record interview conducted by Shephard in 2008.

Earlier in the case, the presiding judge had also insisted that a video of an interrogation of Khadr be played in a closed session with no spectators, despite the video’s availability to the public on YouTube.

The Pentagon said the four reporters were in violation of military orders protecting the witness’ name and that the reporters were informed prior to the proceeding that permanent expulsion from the proceedings was a possibility if they published the names of witnesses protected by the presiding judge.

All four news organizations have indicated that they will appeal the Pentagon’s decision.

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.