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[] AP 14.1.02: AFGHANISTAN-MEDIA: Media Abide by Pentagon Order Forbidding Photos of Prisoners,

Jan 14, 2002
AFGHANISTAN-MEDIA: Media Abide by Pentagon Order Forbidding Photos of Prisoners
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - Most major news organizations abided by an order Jan. 11 from Pentagon officials not to transmit images of masked and chained prisoners in Afghanistan shot the previous day. 

But CBS News, which had planned to air footage on its Jan. 11 "Early Show," then reconsidered, did include grainy clips less than 10 seconds long on the "Evening News." 

CBS News "has evaluated these pictures and made a news judgment to broadcast them in a responsible way, mindful not to jeopardize national security," spokeswoman Kelli Edwards said. 

CNN didn't air its footage, though it did show images shot Jan. 9 of masked prisoners. 

"Restrictions on the press in wartime are nothing new, and the fact is we are on their base and subject to their rules," said network spokeswoman Megan Mahoney. 

Rob Curtis, a photographer for The Army Times who often takes photos for The Associated Press, said he objected to being barred from transmitting photos he had taken of the prisoners' departure. 

"We signed papers that said we would not publish photos that endangered a military operation," Curtis said. "There are no military implications for these photos, only political." 

The AP is protesting the Pentagon's action. 

"We feel this is an important news event and it is our job to provide coverage of important news events," said Vincent Alabiso, AP vice president and executive photo editor. "We see no reason that these pictures should be barred from release." 

Photographers and camera crews from CNN, CBS, The Army Times and other organizations were allowed to take pictures of the 20 prisoners in Kandahar as they boarded a C-17 cargo plane for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But the journalists had to agree not to transmit the images until military officials gave permission. 

Shortly after the plane left the airport, the organizations were told not to send the images. 

A Pentagon spokesman said the decision was made because the Red Cross raised an objection, contending the images would violate international laws on the treatment of prisoners. 

"The Geneva Convention prohibits humiliating, debasing photos," said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley. "We need to be cautious in case there is a legal action somewhere downstream." 

Officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva said the organization had not contacted the Pentagon about photographs taken in Afghanistan. 

"They may have our stance on the issue in their files but we did not raise an objection," said Vincent Lasser, a Red Cross spokesman. +++++ ^Judge denies Flynt's request for access to military missions 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hustler publisher Larry Flynt lost the first round in a court battle for the right to send the magazine's reporters with U.S. forces on combat missions in Afghanistan. 

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman denied Flynt's request on Jan. 8 for a preliminary injunction to bar the Pentagon from denying his reporters access while his lawsuit against the Defense Department is pending. 

It "is far from clear" whether Flynt ultimately will prevail or has suffered sufficient harm, Friedman said. 

He said coverage has increased "and the media now has some level of open access to American troops on the ground in Afghanistan." 

On Oct. 30 Flynt first asked for his employees to accompany U.S. ground troops on operations; he repeated his request Nov. 12. The Pentagon offered access only to such missions as humanitarian food drops and airstrikes and promised to try to expand privileges later. Flynt sued Nov. 16. 

At the time of Flynt's request, soldiers were entering Afghanistan only in small numbers on highly specialized missions. Now that hundreds of Marines and other military forces are in the country, some restrictions on reporters are being lifted. 

Flynt's suit seeks the judge's affirmation that journalists have a constitutional right to document front-line hostilities firsthand, even under specific guidelines. 

"The court is persuaded that in an appropriate case there could be a substantial likelihood of demonstrating that under the First Amendment the press is guaranteed a right to gather and report news involving United States military operations on foreign soil subject to reasonable regulations," Friedman wrote. 

He also rapped the Pentagon for expressing its commitment to providing press access to military operations "somewhat vaguely and with minimal detail." 

Flynt said he considered Friedman's ruling a victory, praising his assertion that the First Amendment could establish the media's right to be present on the battlefield. 

Government lawyers had argued that the media have no constitutional right to battlefield access. +++++ ^Rumsfeld says tough questions from the press are helpful 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld defended the press corps that peppers him with questions at Pentagon briefings, saying the rough-and-tumble is "really, truly helpful" to the discussion of national security issues during wartime. 

On C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Jan. 8, Rumsfeld was asked how he deals with "a constant barrage of hostile questions" at news conferences. 

"The truth is that the tougher the question, the more likely it's a question that people in the listening audience want to hear the answer to," he replied. 

"And to the extent that's the case, it's helpful - really, truly helpful - to have difficult questions asked, so that you have an opportunity to discuss them and explain and add some dimension and texture to the subject." 

A recent column in The Wall Street Journal dubbed Rumsfeld's press briefings "the best new show on television." 

During the C-SPAN call-in show, the defense secretary listened intently to each question and sprinkled his answers with chuckles and comments like "Goodness gracious!" 

One caller asked him to compare his service in the first Bush administration to his current job. Rumsfeld gently reminded the caller he had actually served in the Cabinet under Presidents Nixon and Ford. 

Rumsfeld said his wife reminds him of the necessity for give-and-take with the news media. 

"When I leave the house in the morning my wife, Joyce, says, 'Now, Don, they have their job and you have yours.' And it's true, they do have their job, and their job is to ask questions and to contribute to the national debate and dialogue on these very important issues." 

Rumsfeld called the briefing ritual "an amazing process" that is "particularly difficult, of course, during a conflict." 

Asked whether his televised briefings are popular because of his "charisma" or the public's new interest in national security, Rumsfeld laughed heartily. 

"No, it's the fact that the subject matter is so important to our country," he said. +++++ 

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