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2003-03-23 - 9:45 p.m.

:::Censorship and the "Free" Press:::

They say a picture says a thousands words. Well, look at the following picture:

censorship

Looks innocent enough, right? Just Rummy and Myers giving a briefing on the war. However, if you closely in the right-hand corner, there is a warning to the press. Here is a closer look at that warning:

poster

This poster is a WW2 propaganda poster used to keep the press and the American people silent during WW2. Doesn't the Constitution guarantee a press free from censorship and government interference? This is the NEW America. An America where if you want coverage for a war, you have to sign up for a government contract to have a reporter "embedded" into the military infraction. Check out the following article by the New York Times (which I will post in its entirety here):

Reporters Respond Eagerly to Pentagon Welcome Mat

By TODD S. PURDUM and JIM RUTENBERG

WASHINGTON, March 22 Last fall, the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., likened the Bush administration's drive to build support for the possible war with Iraq to a product-marketing campaign. That effort produced mixed results, but so far the war itself is selling like beer on a troopship, thanks in part to compelling news accounts from reporters bunking with frontline units.

Carefully devised by the Pentagon to counter years of complaints by news organizations about restrictions on combat coverage, the new policy of "embedding" more than 500 reporters with invading troops has produced riveting images of fighter jets on carriers and tanks plowing across the Iraqi desert, accompanied by household faces like Ted Koppel of ABC's "Nightline," and of surrendering Iraqi soldiers with their hands held high.

Like the most sophisticated Madison Avenue marketers, Pentagon planners have also reached out to diverse outlets where public opinion is shaped, by including reporters from MTV, Rolling Stone, People magazine and Men's Health, and foreign journalists running the gamut from Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language television channel, to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

But for all the military's orchestration, news organizations have so far expressed satisfaction with the arrangements, which offer much greater access in exchange for relatively few restrictions. And the bulk of the coverage has been so positive as to verge on celebratory.

Dave Sirulnick, the executive in charge of MTV News, whose correspondent Gideon Yago recently asked a young marine, "Dude, how was it to tell your wife that you were going off to the Iraqi border?" said he was not sure of the Pentagon's motivation. "But I do know that by allowing their soldiers to speak openly and freely to us, they are coming off a lot more credibly," Mr. Sirulnick said. "Instead of thinking of these guys as G.I. Joes and Robocops, you get to meet them and see they are young guys and girls just like the folks who are watching."

Some reporters have been given extraordinary access, allowed to sit in on secret briefings, watching computerized maps of the battlefield with the latest satellite photos, in the middle of the Kuwait desert, for example. The cardinal rule: No reporting, not even any phone calls to their editors, that might divulge details of future operations, and no private satellite telephones, cellphones or sidearms. Showers are scarce, hot meals spotty, but reporters assigned to military units recount friendly, open conversations with G.I.'s, surgeons, drivers, dentists and communications experts, described by one correspondent as "quite talkative" and "extremely interested in what I do."

The new policy has only begun to be tested in battle, and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the allied commander in the Persian Gulf, was said by associates to have been upset to read too many details about planes and missiles in the war's opening-night raids in his morning newspaper.

The Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, warned editors in a conference call on Wednesday that some reports had already provided too much specific information about troop locations and movements, and that even if commanders on the scene divulged such information, it was up to news organizations to withhold it under detailed guidelines to which each agreed in exchange for the reporting berths.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld delivered his first briefing on the war on Thursday in front of an image of a little girl in pigtails and the warning: "Don't kill her Daddy with careless words."

But there have been no reports of serious disputes on the scene, and by the end of the week Mr. Rumsfeld went so far as to praise the robust reporting as "historic" and said, "I doubt that in a conflict of this type, there's ever been the degree of free press coverage as you are witnessing in this instance."

The CNN anchor Aaron Brown made a similar point on the air as tanks sped across the desert late Thursday. "No matter how you slice this thing, this is an extraordinary picture of a moment in a war," Mr. Brown said. "This is not the kind of thing that has ever happened before. The last time American reporters had really good access to American troops was Vietnam, and by and large it would be two days before stories got back to the United States and got on the air."

Then Mr. Brown read an e-mail message from the mother of a tank commander in the Seventh Cavalry, who wrote, "Thank you for allowing me to sit with my son as he crossed the desert in Iraq." Mr. Brown replied, "Rosemary, I'm glad we could show you your guy out there tonight."

Mr. Rumsfeld approved the policy, devised last year by Ms. Clarke and others, in a sharp about-face from the system that prevailed in the first Persian Gulf war, when only about 180 reporters at a time had limited access to the front in a rotating system. That system was much criticized by most news media organizations and some military experts, as were comparable limitations during the Afghan campaign in 2001.

The new policy "kind of evolved," through discussions between Pentagon officials and news organizations, said Bryan G. Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations, who coordinated the system.

"We recognized early on that we needed to make truth an issue should there be a military campaign, because Saddam Hussein was a practiced liar, a master of deception, and the way you mitigate that is to have objective third-party accounts from professional observers," he said. "We also believed Americans deserved to see exactly how well trained their military forces were, how dedicated and professional."

The Pentagon's guidelines, signed by each attached journalist, allow reporting of general troop strength and casualty figures, confirmed figures of enemy soldiers captured and broad information about previous combat actions. Reporters are barred from divulging specifics about troop movements and locations, unless authorized. The identities of wounded or killed Americans may not be reported for 72 hours, or until next of kin can be notified, and local commanders may impose embargoes to protect operations.

Evan Wright, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, joined troops in the Persian Gulf about three weeks ago. Stu Zakim, a spokesman for the magazine, said Pentagon planners were aware not only of the magazine's long history of liberalism but also of its young readership.

"They recognize the interesting logic of giving Rolling Stone access, considering that we're not exactly supportive of President Bush in anything he does," Mr. Zakim said.

Steve Rubenstein, president of Rubenstein Communications, which has advised various foreign governments on how to deal with the American news media, called the policy "a brilliant idea."

"It helps create empathy between the reporters and their subjects," he said, "and I think that in the end that will make it easier for the Pentagon to communicate what it is trying to do."

Marvin Kalb, the veteran CBS News correspondent who is now a senior fellow at the Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, said: "I think the embedding strategy is a gutsy, risky call for Rumsfeld, and his fingerprints are all over it. He believes that one must enlist the support of the American people, and the way you get that is to get the media."

The early reports have been unusually frank. Jason Bellini of CNN filed a painfully raw report at midweek about a young private named Polanco with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Force in Kuwait who complained of feeling faint, unable to carry his pack, and of missing his family. "He's just kind of having a hard time right now," a fellow marine explained.

Not all the coverage has been glowing. As American networks showed the march of tanks Friday morning, a BBC correspondent was broadcasting an interview with a man in Jordan who is opposed to the war. The man described the solidarity that nearby protesters felt with their "brothers in Iraq" who they felt were being tortured.

Robert J. Thompson, a professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University, said, "When all is said and done, what the military has done with embedding has essentially cast the journalist into the drama of this war they are producing.

"Just like you would pick people to be on your reality TV show. This is like `Real World Iraq.' "

But Kenneth Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman in the Clinton administration, said: "How the public perceives the war can't really be affected by governmental spin. It's affected by results. If we do well, people will understand that, and if we do badly, people will understand that, too."

Again, this sounds marvelous, right? We get to see the war in 'real time' thanks to Bush's program for embedded reporters. However, independent reporters have already been told that there is no guaranteed protection for them on the war front, and we have already seen evidence of this as several non-embedded reporters have been killed in the war. Here is a report from Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF):

Independent Journalists Fight Their Own War in Iraq; AIVF Advocates Support for "Non-Embedded" Reporters

by Eugene Hernandez with additional reporting by Brian Brooks

In the early hours of the war this week, viewers watching the events unfold live on television no doubt noted the continual use of the term "embedded journalists," referring to reporters who are based with U.S. troops abroad. These journalists are offered what is described as "unprecedented" access, but with restrictions sometimes placed upon what they can say and when they can say it. While most U.S. television networks have pulled their "non-embedded" journalists from hot spots, they have also relied upon journalists who are working independently to provide reports.

The Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) is speaking out in support of independent journalists in these first days of the war in Iraq. On Wednesday night, as the war began, the AIVF issued a statement urging its membership to contact government leaders to voice concerns about the safety of independent journalists who are covering the war.

Citing media reports, AIVF is expressing concerns that independent journalists have been threatened or are targeted for attack by the U.S., and the organization is advocating that these reporters be protected.

"We strongly condemn threats leveled against independent media makers and the free flow of information," the AIVF said in its statement.

"AIVF is raising real concerns," CameraPlanet's co-president Steve Rosenbaum told indieWIRE yesterday. "And they're both about the short-term danger and the long-term impact of censorship and restriction of voices in this important and complex story." Rosenbaum's company has a number of journalists covering this war, from the "non-embedded" Peter Arnett in Baghdad for National Geographic to other solo reporters on the scene.

Rosenbaum explained that the journalists are facing safety issues as well as, in his words, "a powerful and pervasive force that is driving 'the story' and pushing all alternative voices and viewpoints off the air."

Arnett, well known to Americans for his work for CNN during the first Gulf War, is reporting live and also taping a number of news packages for networks around the world. He has been moving between two hotels in Baghdad, according to Rosenbaum, since the El Rashid hotel (home base for some reporters) is thought to be a U.S. target. Rosenbaum said that the U.S. is not denying that the hotel is a target.

"Free speech is a fundamental right provided for in our Constitution," said the AIVF in its advocacy message. "And the opportunity to have a voice and to hear a diversity of voices and viewpoints is part of what we cherish as Americans."

Noting the work of video journalist May Ying Welch, the daughter of former AIVF board member Loni Ding who is currently reporting from the region, the AIVF said that work by independent reporters such as Welch is, "providing the type of informed and truly independent viewpoint lacking in mainstream media coverage."

AIVF executive director Elizabeth Peters noted a concern about the broader issue of allowing diverse opinions to be heard. In a conversation with indieWIRE, Peters acknowledged the need for the military to maintain secrets in order to protect the lives of U.S. troops, but said the organization is concerned about the dismissive tone that some military officials have taken with regard to the safety of independent journalists who are not part of the "embedded" program.

"Protecting the freedoms and safety of filmmakers and journalists (is) going to be a battle all its own," Rosenbaum concluded. "And one that I'm committed to."

The AIVF is encouraging its members to contact Congressional representatives with their views on the matter.

In my opinion, the US Government is working awfully hard to censor what news we Americans will see and hear coming out of this war in Iraq. From what I have been told, BBC, which is usually more fair in its broadcasting, is following along with the censorship propaganda. So where can we go for fair and unbiased news about this war? Probably no where. We will just have to view everything we can get our hands on and then discern for ourselves if we believe it or not. Keeping an open mind will help too.

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