Obama’s Brutal War on the Press: “Pentagon Manual Calls for Treating Journalists as ‘Unprivileged Belligerents.’”

Thursday, August 13, 2015
By Paul Martin

By Scott Shackford
Global Research
August 13, 2015

Pentagon manual calls for potentially treating journalists like ‘unprivileged belligerents.’

It’s well documented that President Barack Obama’s administration has been brutal in targeting whistleblowers who leak information to the press. The Department of Justice has spied on the Associated Press and Fox News to track down sources of information. It has slid down the World Press Freedom Index to 49th place, lower than several African and South American countries.

Now a new Pentagon document, a Law of War Manual, states that journalists can be treated like “unprivileged belligerents,” which is apparently the new term for “unlawful combatants,” which some may recall was the new term for “suspected terrorists.”

According to some media coverage of the manual, military leaders are insisting they’re not declaring that journalists are the enemy. Rather they’re pointing out that journalists just might be the actual enemy, as in terrorists, spies, and propagandists posing as journalists.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, however, is concerned that the vagueness of the manual will give clearance to the military to detain and harass journalists with very little evidence that they’re doing anything but honest reporting:

This broad and poorly defined category gives U.S. military commanders across all services the purported right to at least detain journalists without charge, and without any apparent need to show evidence or bring a suspect to trial. The Obama administration’s Defense Department appears to have taken the ill-defined practices begun under the Bush administration during the War on Terror and codified them to formally govern the way U.S. military forces treat journalists covering conflicts.

The manual’s impact overseas, especially in the short run, may be even worse. The language used to justify treating journalists as “unprivileged belligerents” comes at a time when international law for conflict is being flouted by armed groups–including government, militia, and insurgent forces–from Ukraine and Iraq to Nigeria and the Congo–and during a time in which CPJ has documented record numbers of journalists being imprisoned and killed. At a time when international leadership on human rights and press freedom is most needed, the Pentagon has produced a self-serving document that is unfortunately helping to lower the bar.

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