Pentagon criticized for likening war-zone journalists to spies

Washington, Aug 12 (IANS) The Pentagon is criticised for its new war laws manual that likens war-zone journalists to spies and says that under some circumstances, war-zone journalists can be treated as “unprivileged belligerents”.

The 1,176-page manual, initially publicised in June, did not stir up much controversy till Monday when an editorial by The New York Times called for repeal of certain guidelines which it argued would make the work of war-zone journalists “more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship”, reports Xinhua.

Though treating journalists generally as civilians, the Pentagon manual says in some instances – without explicitly defining those instances – journalists should be regarded as ” unprivileged belligerents”, a legal term that applies to someone who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war, the same category that usually refers to militants such as members of the extremist group al-Qaeda.

“Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying,” says the Pentagon manual, proposing that governments “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures” to ensure no exposure of sensitive information to the enemy.

In response, a Pentagon spokesman reportedly insisted that the manual is “not an authorization for any person to take any particular action related to journalists or anyone else.”

“It is not policy and the manual is not directive in nature,” said the spokesman.

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