War Journalists Labeled Spies, Unprivileged Belligerents. That’s What A New Pentagon Manual Calls Some War Reporters

imageedit_3_4673052415August 26, 2015

By Lorra B. 

US defense Secretary, Ash Carter, is being asked by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) to amend a new Pentagon manual that is labeling war journalists as spies, unprivileged belligerents and saboteurs.

Is this new manual an indication the U.S. government is openly marking journalists who challenge Washington’s objectives?

An open letter was published by RWB to Carter about the Law of War Manual. The manual has infuriated reporters “for saying war reporters may be held liable for ‘engaging in hostilities’ or spying, sabotage and similar acts behind enemy lines’,” according to The Guardian.

The War Manual, was published on June 24 and is 1,176 pages of revisions, the first revisions since 1956.

The revisions include terminology marking journalists stating “in general, journalists are civilians,” and that in some instances these reporters may be viewed as “unprivileged belligerents.”

But what does unprivileged belligerents really mean? Well, ‘unprivileged belligerents,’ according to veteran war corresponded Don North, simply replaces the term ‘unlawful combatants’ and that journalists, therefore are looked upon as nothing more than those in the ranks of Al Qaeda.

Based on this assessment, broad interpretation and hazy wording, journalists could not only be asked to leave military bases but they could also be detained for perceived wrongdoings.

Secretary General Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders stated, “This terminology leaves too much room for interpretation, putting journalists in a dangerous position.”

“Liking journalistic activity to spying is just the kind of ammunition certain repressive countries like Iran, Syria and China would seek out to support their practices of censorship and criminalization of journalists.”

Columbia Journalism Review’s managing editor, Vanessa Gezari, stated, “It’s very threatening. I believe it contradicts at least the spirit of customary battlefield relationships, if not the letter. The relationship between journalists and combatants has always been complicated. The way the language about spying is placed in there is alarming to me in that is says, ‘journalism is a lot like spying’ and then it leaves that to people to make up their own mind. It gets at the commonalities but not the differences.”

The craftily worded manual sets journalist in a whole new category. Journalists will not be classified as either civilian or soldier and therefore have no protections. The manual states that ‘like other civilians, civilian journalists who engage in hostilities against a State, may be punished by that State after a fair trial.”

The “relaying of information,” according to the new manual, may be construed as such an act.

Governments, according to the manual, “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.”

Censor journalists’ work? Really? This does not sound like the ‘America The Free’ I remember. Press freedoms are vitally important to America remaining free. Without them we will become no better than a dictator state.

When the Pentagon begins to crack down and round up all journalistic work to be reviewed and possibly censored then we will be playing in a whole new ball game and not one for the betterment of American citizens.

Will we become nothing more than the New China or New Russia? When we begin to censor and impede on journalistic freedoms then we start chipping away at the very fabric this great nation was built on. Just where that chipping will lead is a road I, for one, don’t wish to travel.

By Lorra B.

15 thoughts on “War Journalists Labeled Spies, Unprivileged Belligerents. That’s What A New Pentagon Manual Calls Some War Reporters

  1. Back in the 70’s, sat quietly after a night out patrolling, our chill out time was interrupted by a news crew. Two questions, how many did you kill, did you get any photographs?
    Told to Fk.off, the article that followed not only contained photos of our team but our names, and where we had been together with the phrase about “peace-keepers going on patrol looking for blood”.

    The censor banned the story. Still it appeared in some foreign rag.
    My point? There is no place in combat for journalists. Few understand PERSEC, even fewer report accurately. And most have the morals of an alley cat when pursuing a story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. . Knowing that this comes from this administration one can assume it has nothing to do with protecting the troops but rather protecting his A**. He cares not a wit about our country or our service men and women.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Post Script

    Let us recall that the lying POS Tim McGirk created the entire Haditha narrative, subjecting Marines to significant legal prosecution lasting several years, terminated the career of senior officers in the chain of command, and all of which resulted in not a single conviction for any war crime. If McGirk is not a belligerent, than I don’t know what else we could call him—except perhaps traitor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment Mustang and you site Fair examples, no doubt. However, once a door such as censorship is opened, how do you stop that monster? I believe that if the government is planning on any type of censorship there should be CLEAR examples of what is and is not acceptable to write on, otherwise, the sky is the limit. The Pentagon has not done that. I completely understand not wanting any reporter to compromise soldiers, their positions or the like and have often wondered why some info was published. But, you have to wonder, then, why and how they got that information if not form the source itself… It is a provocative topic for sure. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • We didn’t seem to have this problem back during two previous world wars and Korea. It only began to be a problem when the press established the argument that they had an absolute right to information on the battlefield. Often, it wasn’t about reporting on the war as it was about an anti-war, anti-American commentary. Now honestly, anyone who has been to war is “anti-war.” But do we as a nation actually want to sit down at the dinner table and see a televised vision of some young man’s guts oozing out of his belly? Worse, do we want to run the risk that we know that young person? That’s the kind of stuff Walter Cronkite and his ilk were famous for. Or seeing a soldier with his name stenciled on his helmet and taking that story in a completely different direction … his name was Love.

        The greatest of all war correspondents wrote his human-interest stories (as distinguished from anti-war stories) and told about our boys who were engaged in a great struggle. He took his stories to the censors who cleared his stories for publication. The censor board omitted unit’s designations and specific locations … and they did this because, as we all know, loose lips sink ships. Whatever our system was “back then,” it worked.

        I contend that the press does not have a right to use our boys serving in combat as backdrops for their own (or their editor’s) political views. If the government we elected decides to take our nation to war, then we Americans have a duty to support that effort insofar as our conscience will allow us to do that. The degree to which the home front supports our boys on the front line depends on how the press reports that war.

        Let me add to this that up until only recently, most Americans perceived of themselves as a nation of warriors … of winners on the field of battle. Thanks to how the press reports our war effort, most Americans think our armed services as “too mean.” Thanks to the press, most of our citizens have come to regard themselves as part of a loser nation. The press told the American people that during Vietnam, we killed babies and raped women and bombed orphanages … and this was part of John Kerry’s narrative too. The problem is that the press was intentionally lying to the American people … and so did Kerry.

        I think the safety of our troops takes precedence over some POS reporter’s right to know about military operations. Thanks for letting me unload …

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well alright! A person with a view and clear-cut reasons for them…Thanks so much for your honest response! You bring up a LOT of very good points. When it comes to matters of war, admittedly I am no expert. But, my common sense would lead me to believe that there are some things (like the wounded splattered all over the media or putting a unit in jeopardy, for example) that the media should wisely be prevented from airing because that would clearly be an issue of national security. I will, however, take a stand that if it isn’t explicitly stated just what things may be off limits to the media then it will spill over into all forms of communications, especially when dealing with issue of a political nature. This was great! Really appreciate your input Mustang… Have a great night! 🙂


  4. The basis for the argument that journalists “are the enemy” is that which is being taught in schools of journalism throughout our country —which is that in order to achieve journalistic excellence, one must renounce one’s loyalty to their country, reject patriotism, and never-ever-ever be caught wearing a US Flag pin on one’s lapel. Perhaps it is NOT a good idea to embed “journalists” that oppose US military operations, refuse access to information any reporter lacking a sense of patriotism whose reporting can (and has) jeopardized military operations and subjected our soldiers to greater harm. Perhaps you can recall an amphibious landing by Marines in Somalia in the early dawn hours —there to greet them on the beach was Christiane Amanpour and her cameramen lighting up the area so that enemy snipers could better see the Marines coming ashore.

    Liked by 1 person

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