NPR has called on the Department of Defense to revise its “Law of War Manual,” released in June, which says that journalists’ reporting on military operations can be “very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying.”
In a letter sent to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Aug. 19, Michael Oreskes, NPR’s s.v.p of news, said the document “creates dangerous ambiguity around the collection of information for use in reporting.” He adds that some of the statements made in the manual about journalists “are very broad and encroach on what we consider to be basic press freedoms.”
One passage Oreskes questioned reads:
Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying. A journalist who acts as a spy may be subject to security measures and punished if captured. To avoid being mistaken for spies, journalists should act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities. Presenting identification documents, such as the identification card issued to authorized war correspondents or other appropriate identification, may help journalists avoid being mistaken as spies.
Oreskes said NPR is especially concerned about the document because the network has so many reporters at its 17 international bureaus and in conflict zones.
“This ambiguity heightens the risk to journalists around the world, and gives aid and comfort to government and regimes that seek to restrict independent journalism,” he said.
In an interview with Bob Garfield on WNYC’s On The Media, Charles A. Allen, deputy general counsel for international affairs at the Department of Defense, said the department will listen to public comments and consider updating the manual.
Read Oreskes’ full letter.
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