Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

Reporters Committee – Pentagon revises war manual to emphasize protections for journalists

Sophie Murguia, July 28, 2016 – “The Pentagon has updated its Law of War manual to clarify that journalists are generally protected as civilians under international law. The changes, announced last week, came after media groups expressed concern that some language in the original version could put reporters at risk of being considered spies or combatants. The manual, first released in 2015, is the Department of Defense’s guide to international law as it applies to the U.S. military. The original manual drew criticism for saying that although journalists are usually civilians, they can sometimes be “unprivileged belligerents” — a category that includes guerrillas and spies. Because unprivileged belligerents do not have the same legal protections as either combatants or civilians, some media organizations argued that the categorization could be used as an excuse to indefinitely detain journalists without charges. The Defense Department said at the time that it never intended to suggest that ordinary journalists were “unprivileged belligerents.” Instead, the language was meant to refer to spies who pretended to be reporters or journalists who left their roles to become combatants. Press freedom groups also objected to a section that said newsgathering “can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying” and recommended that journalists work “with the permission of relevant authorities.”

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.