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Television stations not running terrorist tapes

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  1. Newsgathering

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering         Oct 17, 2001    

Television stations not running terrorist tapes

  • Television networks honored White House request to avoid airing unedited tapes from Osama bin Laden while other stations and newspapers consider doing the same.

Two cable news networks decided not to air any portion of the latest tape released by Al-Jazeera television on Oct. 13, honoring the White House’s request last week for stations not to broadcast unedited comments from Osama bin Laden.

ABC News, NBC News, CBS News were all reviewing the tape to determine if it was worthy of airing.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer indicated that the Bush administration might extend the request to the nation’s top newspapers to refrain from printing transcripts of the video, claiming the tapes could contain coded messages to bin Laden’s followers.

Over the weekend, CNN used a portion of the tape showing bin Laden spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith. Fox News and MSNBC did not air any portion of the tapes, with network officials telling Newsday that they were not newsworthy.

A spokesman for Fox News called the tapes “rhetoric” and said the network had no plans to run the tape. An MSNBC spokesperson agreed, saying of the tapes, “what they’re saying is what they’ve been saying.” MSNBC showed a still photograph of bin Laden and summed up his spokesman’s comments.

According to The New York Times, Fleischer called the paper’s executive editor, Howell Raines, on Oct. 10 to talk about coverage. Raines told his newspaper that Fleischer asked “an equivalent request” to what the White House asked of the networks.

“I responded that our practice is to keep readers fully informed,” Raines said he told Fleischer. “We are always available to listen to any information about security issues.”

Neither the Washington Post nor the Boston Globe had been contacted, but both told the Times they would make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Fleischer has not officially asked newspapers to stop printing transcripts verbatim but indicated in an Oct. 10 press conference “there is a good possibility there may be follow-ups.”


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© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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