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Hints at Future News Blackouts
Shultz Defends Press Ban
By Margaret Shapiro
tion Por: Staff river
Secretary of State George P. Shultz yesterday said that journalists were barred from covering the invasion of Grenada because reporters are always against us and so they're always seeking to report something that's going to screw things up.
Shultz also said it was possible that reporters would be banned from other military actions in the future because the priority in such cases will be on accomplishing a mission and not blowing the operation by this tremendous sense that reporters seem to have these days that they have to know ev. erything before you do."
Shultz's comments were made dering an interview Wednesday with editors of the Gannett newspaper chain When asked about the decision to bar reporters from Grenada during the Oct. 25 invasion and overturn a tradition that has been in place for several U.S.
Media Curbed Out of Dislike, Admiral Says
CORONADO, Calif., Dec. 15 (UFI)-The admiral in charge of the Grenada invasion said reporters were
left behind partly because many of
his fellow officers harbored a strong
slike of the media
Vice Adm. Joseph Metcalf told the San Diego Tribune that he would have allowed a poc. of eight journalists to arcompany the invasion fleet, but did not want to deal with a press corps numbering in the hundreds
Post Dec. 16, 1983
GEORGE P. SHULTZ ..."reporters are always against us"
White House spokesman Larry Speakes yesterday tried to put some distance between Shultz's statements and the White House
"I do not think that reflects the attitude of the president or the senior staff of the White House," he said.
Q. Mr. President, on the press, Secretary Shultz said the other day that in World War II reporters went along because, on the whole, they were on our side. And then he observed that these days it always seems that the reporters are always against us and they're trying to report things to screw things up. Is that your view of the press, also?
A. Now you're not going to get me into the middle of that, are you? I'm simply going to say that I do believe, Sam, that sometimes, beginning with the Korean conflict and certainly in the Vietnam conflict, there was more criticizing of our own forces and what we were trying to do, to the point that it didn't seem that there was much criticism being leveled on the enemy. And sometimes I just wish that we could get together on what is of importance to our national security in a
situation of that kind, what is endan gering our forces and what is helping them in their mission.
Q. Well, sir, is one of the problems a definition of the word "us"? When Secretary Shultz uses it, or if you say "our forces," do you think he was using it in terms of an Administra tion, the Reagan Administration? A. No.
I didn't want the press around where I would start second-guessing! what I was doing relative to the press," said Metcalf, who addressed a group of Naval Academy praduates at the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado.
"We think there is a lot of resentment of the press in the Navy but that is minor compared to the Army and Marine Corps." he said adding that both commanders and journal. ists must reconcile their anterences.
Notes on the aftermath of the media and Grenada: another national Harris opinion survey offers polling evidence that Americans have not deserted the media on the right to cover news. It also shows that citizens back. the media over the govern ment on coverage of the Grenada invasion. By 65 to 32 percent, those polled said they believed that reporters should have been allowed to accompany U.S. troops invading Grenada.
At the time of the Reagan administration's ban on coverage of that invasion in October, this column dealt at length with the overwhelmingly negative view of American media performance in general and support for the government's position on the media in Grenada specifically as reflected in a massive stream of letters from around the country. Those letters continued to arrive for weeks. Since Harris' data now indicate that public attitudes are different than I reported, or that they have changed, I am happy to add his figures for the record on the subject.
Some of his other findings: by 53 to 36 percent, those polled think that the country was better off because Vietnam was fully and graphically covered. Eightythree percent agree that, in a free country, a basic freedom is the right to know about important events, especially where the lives of American soldiers are concerned. By 63 to 34 percent, they agree that by not allowing at least a small pool of reporters to report an invasion, a president or the military might be tempted to cover up mistakes and lives lost. And 52 percent disagree that the press and television pry too much into too many things as it is.
Harris concludes that those who raised questions about harsh anti-media sentiments in the country were wrong. Let us hope so, but on this subject I remain from Missouri. I have to be shown further that public attitudes about the media are still not strongly negative.
BARRING Reporters from the Prattlefield"
ment announced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were
By Drew Middleton
ILITARY TEXTBOOKS OF THE future will probably cite the United States invasion of Grenada as a swift and effective operation carried out with minimal casualties and the accomplishment of major objectives. But the textbooks, being Imilitary, will probably omit one unfortunate consequence of the operation-the worsening of relations between the news media and the military resulting from extraordinary restrictions placed on the former by the latter.
The significance of this deterioration lies as much in its carry-over effect as in the immediate impact. The increasing number of global flash points, such as Lebanon, the Persian Gulf, South Korea and Central America, seems to insure that other American milltary operations will soon provide new testing grounds. How both sides meet the challenges to come will have a profound effect on a relationship of great importance not just to the parties involved but to the American public as a whole.
The decision to deny access to press, radio and television reporters during the early stages of last October's operation in Grenada ran against the course not only of military precedent but of a history of considerable media freedom in covering American military conflicts that dates back to the Civil War. Although the armed forces had frequently raised objections and barriers, often for reasons of security, there had, on the whole, been a balance, with the military benefiting as much as the media. The exception was the Vietnam War, the final years of which were the nadir of media-military relationships.
There is little doubt in the minds of experienced observers that post-Vietnam military attitudes influenced the decision to shut the media out of the landing in Grenada and of the earliest mop-up operations. The majors and commanders of the Vietnam War who believed the media had worked against the American command there had become influential generals and admirals determined not to expose the Grenada operation to what they continue to view as a hostile adversary. That attitude was reflected by President Reagan during a December press conference when he said that in Vietnam the press was not on "our side, milltarily."
The media track record has, in fact, been creditable. In Vietnam, as in earlier wars, members of the press proved their ability to preserve the security of military actions and landings. And they have routinely exposed themselves to danger while covering conflicts involving American troops, including at present the action in Lebanon.
Their interest in continuing to do so was expressed strongly in January when 10 major news organizations issued a joint statement calling on the Reagan Administration to affirm the right of journalists to cover United States military operations. Leaders of the news groups indicated they could agree on limited restrictions, such as delayed filing and military censorship, so long as reporters were not excluded from combat missions and thus denied the right of independent reporting. The White House said it was trying to arrange a meeting with the group's leaders, and the Defense Depart
THE CIVIL WAR, THE GREATEST CONFLICT ever fought on this continent, marked the emergence of the American war correspondent. The writers and artists who covered the war between the states enjoyed extraordinary freedom. Many of them passed easily from one side to the other. By modern standards, their accounts were less than objective and, in many cases, unduly prepared to accept the military's version of the situation. For instance, despite the example before them of the disclosure of medical breakdown in the Crimea by The Times of London's correspondent William Howard Russell, the horrors of military hospitals and prisoner of war camps received scant attention at the time.
Relations deteriorated during the Spanish-American War. Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter, commander of American troops in Cuba, had little use for report. ers, including the famous correspondent, Richard Harding Davis, who stridently supported the Government's position in The New York Journal. It was left to Lieut. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, who had his eyes on summits beyond San Juan Hill, to cosset the press and leave the reading public with the impression that "Teddy" had won the war.
The American Army entering World War I found itself wrapped in the censorship already established by Britain and France, the senior allies, who instituted it for purposes of security. There is little doubt but that Gen. John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, found the restrictions congenial. Before the First World War I began, having persuaded the War Department to keep the press away during his pacification of Mindoro Island in the Philippines, Pershing had managed to fight a successful campaign without any media scrutiny.
Magazine JEB. 5,8
Reporters assigned to the A.E.F., like those assigned to the British and French forces, had a certain freedom of movement but a thin diet of news. What they did write was largely favorable to the Allies. But because of the censorship, neither they nor their allied colleagues reported one of the major events: the French Army mutiny in 1917.
By the time World War II came along, the British had learned a lot about the uses, and usefulness, of censorship. To a people fighting for their lives, as the British did following the defeat of the French and before the Americans entered the fray, censorship was an acceptable if not particularly attractive practice. With his feel for the (Continued on Page 61)
mass mind, Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill understood, however, that if all the bad news was concealed through censorship, the British public would come to doubt everything the Government said. So although a great deal continued to be censored tonnage of ships sunk, the exact extent of airraid damage a good deal more was written about than would be deemed prudent today by President Reagan. Although a gap existed be tween the media and military during World War II, there were reasonable men on both sides and the relationship be tween the two during the campaigns in the Mediterranean and northwest Europe are often cited as an example of harmonious cooperation.
As a correspondent in both theaters of war, I concur. But there were major differences between the situation then and today.
The first, and probably most important, was that total censorship prevailed. Everything written, photographed or broadcast was scrutinized by censors. Anything that did not meet the high command's considerations of security was deleted.
A second difference was that televsion did not exist as a news media during World War II. The "loss" of the Vietnam War is attributed by extremists in the American military to television's capacity to bring its horrors into American living rooms. What, then, would have been the reaction of the Allied publics had the bombing of London, the slaughter at Anzio or the house-to-house and room-toroom fighting at Stalingrad been brought into their homes?
The third factor was the attitude of the correspondents themselves. There was resistance to censorship during World War II but situations in which a reporter tried to evade it with material that might endanger soldiers' lives or ships at sea were extremely rare.
Censorship was intended to apply only to military matters. Concern over a spate of unfavorable reports on the political situation in North Africa following the assassination of Adm. Jean François Darlan prompted Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied forces, to impose a political
censorship for a time. But a storm of protest from American and British politicians, as well as from the media, forced the high command to discontinue the practice.
The existence of military censorship did, however, enable commanders to talk with a freedom absent in later wars. World War II correspondents were permitted, if not encouraged, to interview officers dealing with operations, intelligence or military, government. Corps, divisional and brigade commanders were accessible on the various fronts. General Eisenhower took the lead, providing full and detailed briefings before each major operation. Responsible reporters, he believed, helped sustain popular support for the war, and censorship took care of any inaccuracies that might creep into their stories.
Along the fronts in Tunisia, Sicily, Italy and northwest Europe, reporters had complete freedom of movement. If they risked their lives by moving too close to a fire fight or by flying on bombing missions over Berlin, that was their concern. In all, about 140 correspondents were killed on all fronts during World War II.
World War II was the last in which total censorship prevailed. The change in the media-military relationship began during the Korean War, when what censorship occurred was largely imposed at the source by senior officers. The main source was Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, Commander of United Nations Military Forces in South Korea, a master at putting across the military's view of operations, and at keeping his mouth shut about impending campaigns.
Censorship at the source, reached its apogee in the Vietnam War. On the whole, reporters were free to go where they wished, but those who did not have the trust of senior officers, a trust laboriously built in past wars, were given little information. Many officers became increasingly convinced that the growing hostility to the war on the part of the American public was due to biased and inaccurate reporting by cor. respondents.
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