U.S. revised Law of War Manual recognizes role of independent journalists
July 25, NY: The Pentagon no longer considers journalists operating independently of U.S. military forces as potential spies, terrorists, or saboteurs, according to U.S. military officials who have rewritten the military's Law of War Manual.
The manual's revisions--which follow Pentagon meetings with news and press freedom groups including the Committee to Protect Journalists--recognizes the role of journalists to independently report armed conflicts, and, in doing so, to arrange meetings or have contacts with different sides, including "enemy personnel."
The Pentagon released its first Department-of-Defense-wide Law of War Manual in June 2015. It included language that allowed journalists to be categorized as "unprivileged belligerents," which could have allowed military commanders to detain journalists indefinitely outside the rules of war without ever charging them.
"The new language is a seismic shift for the U.S. military," said CPJ Senior Adviser for Journalist Security Frank Smyth. "This affirmation of journalists' right to report armed conflicts freely and from all sides is especially welcome at a time when governments, militias, and insurgent forces around the world are routinely flouting the laws of war."
During the Iraq war, the U.S. detained many journalists precisely for their alleged contacts for journalistic purposes with enemy forces, according to CPJ research. Others were held in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, including at least one imprisoned for six years.
"The manual was restructured to make it be more clear," said Pentagon Deputy General Counsel Chuck Allen in a conference call yesterday prior to the revised manual's release. "Journalists are civilians and are to be protected as such."
The Oslo Times International News Network/IFEX