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October 1, 2014

HOT BLAST: The Army's attempts to tamp down negative war coverage

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Posted: Monday, June 16, 2014 7:33 am | Updated: 7:51 am, Mon Jun 16, 2014.

Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army private convicted of espionage for releasing thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, had several interesting points in an op-ed published in Sunday's New York Times.

Among the most vital: That today's U.S. Army severely hampers the media's ability to independently report from war zones. That difficult relationship has existed as long as journalists have followed armies. But Manning put a modern twist to the tale, saying that Americans are being duped about what's going on in Afghanistan and Iraq because the Pentagon simply won't allow quality reporting to happen.

By quality, the former soldier means reporting not guaranteed to toe the military's line. 

Some may find it difficult to trust Manning's writings because of his dubious place in American history -- a person convicted of espionage -- but it is certainly worth a larger look. 

Manning wrote:

"The process of limiting press access to a conflict begins when a reporter applies for embed status. All reporters are carefully vetted by military public affairs officials. This system is far from unbiased. Unsurprisingly, reporters who have established relationships with the military are more likely to be granted access.

"Less well known is that journalists whom military contractors rate as likely to produce 'favorable' coverage, based on their past reporting, also get preference. This outsourced 'favorability' rating assigned to each applicant is used to screen out those judged likely to produce critical coverage.

"Reporters who succeeded in obtaining embed status in Iraq were then required to sign a media 'ground rules' agreement. Army public affairs officials said this was to protect operational security, but it also allowed them to terminate a reporter’s embed without appeal."

-- Phillip Tutor

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