The Defense Department earlier this summer released a comprehensive manual outlining its interpretation of the law of war. The 1,176-page document, the first of its kind, includes guidelines on the treatment of journalists covering armed conflicts that would make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship. Those should be repealed immediately. The manual’s argument that some reporting activities could be construed as taking part in hostilities is ludicrous. That vaguely-worded standard could be abused by military officers to censor or even target journalists. Equally bizarre is the document’s suggestion that reporters covering wars should operate only with the permission of “relevant authorities” or risk being regarded as spies.
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Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a Managing Editor for OpEd News, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites.