Pentagon Revises Rules on Dealing With Journalists

From AllGov:

By Robert Burns, Associated Press

The amended manual, published on Friday, also drops wording that equated journalism with spying.

These and other changes were made in response to complaints by news organizations, including The Associated Press, which expressed concern to Defense Department lawyers and other officials that updates to the manual published last summer contained vaguely worded provisions that commanders could interpret as allowing them to detain journalists for any number of perceived offenses.

“The manual was restructured to make it more clear and up front that journalists are civilians and are to be protected as such,” Charles A. Allen, the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

The revised manual more explicitly states that engaging in journalism does not constitute taking a direct part in hostilities.

“Where possible, efforts should be made to distinguish between the activities of journalists and the activities of enemy forces, so that journalists’ activities (such as) meetings or other contacts with enemy personnel for journalistic purposes do not result in a mistaken conclusion that a journalist is part of enemy forces,” the revised manual says.

Jennifer O’Connor, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, said in a statement that consultations with news organizations over the past year “helped us improve the manual and communicate more clearly the department’s support for the protection of journalists under the law of war.”

“It is always a challenge for journalists to work in war zones, but it is particularly tricky when embedding with military forces because the missions are different,” said Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP. “It is important that the Law of War manual recognize that the roles of each are different — each important but distinctly different.”

The manual’s earlier version, published in 2015, said that while journalists “in general” …

Continue Reading