11th October 2005
The US Government’s behaviour towards the media is “unacceptable”, says the Chartered Institute of Journalists – the world’s oldest professional association for journalists.
At their annual general meeting in London on the weekend of 8th/9th October, members of the Institute slated the Bush Administration for “stifling opposition to their neocon policies.”
The attitude of President Bush towards the journalistic profession is “highly reminiscent of that of his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who was obsessed with the idea that the press were out to get him.”
In a wide-ranging debate on press freedom, delegate after delegate criticised the growing intolerance of the media shown by the Administration, which regularly “leans on editors to suppress news about the effects of its policies”, especially the war in Iraq. What right does the Administration have to tell the media not to show pictures of the American dead? “The ‘no body bags’ policy is censorship, pure and simple.”
There was also criticism of the US Army for its “irresponsible” attitude to journalists in war zones. “Eighteen media people have been killed in Iraq by US forces since the invasion of that country in 2003”, said John Szemerey, the Institute’s Brussels representative and a former information officer for the European Commission. “Most of those deaths were totally unnecessary and could easily have been avoided.”
But the American attitude to journalists, “especially if they have dark faces”, is “careless, if not callous”, said Szemerey.
The Bush Administration was not the only government to come in for heavy flak at the institute’s AGM. The Blair Government was also slated for offering money to the NUJ [National Union of Journalists] to promote the Government’s policy towards Africa This was seen as a case of “politicians paying journalists for propaganda” and contrary to the Chartered Institute of Journalists’ code of ethics. The NUJ was criticised even more heavily for having accepted the money.
A resolution was passed by the AGM calling on the US Administration, and other governments, to “respect different opinions, protect and encourage a free press at home, and behave responsibly towards journalists and media personnel in zones of conflict, especially where its troops are involved.”