Media Matters
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Journalists Under Fire

Soldiers in the Desert   

The lead segment of MEDIA MATTERS, reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning host Alex Jones, explores the relationship of the press and the Pentagon in the coverage of the war in Afghanistan. Hardly a decade after a system of military press pools caused some journalists to complain that the government violated First Amendment rights during the Gulf War, reporters in Afghanistan are still seeking ways to circumvent the Pentagon's control of information in a war that has seen as many journalists die as American soldiers. From the dangers of frontline reporting to the frustrations of unprecedented government controls on information, we talk to reporters about their role in covering this latest American conflict.

Photographers in the field
Reporting on the front lines: how the Pentagon controls press access in Afghanistan.

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In what some reporters and editors say is the tightest government control of information in recent memory, MEDIA MATTERS talks to all sides about the limited press access, raising the question of whether it is simply a journalist's job to elude the military's restrictions. There are other issues at stake as well. What sort of information is appropriate for the government to ask the press to withhold? There has never been a documented case of a reporter revealing information that put U.S. troops in danger. Can't the press be trusted to use its own good judgment in deciding which facts to release? How exactly do journalists get around the government's obstacles to do their investigating?

Nic Robertson of CNN discusses the extreme lack of access to U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan and the need to exploit Northern Alliance contacts to gain information. Sarah Chayes of NPR dressed herself as a Muslim man in order to get her story. The segment continues in Washington with a look at the Pentagon press pool, which has had to contend with the masterful performances of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and a consideration of the age-old question, "Did 'national security' concerns undermine the people's right to know?"

The Media at War

Travel through the history of war coverage from WWII to the present.
Should the press use its own judgment about what to report during a national emergency?

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Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld addresses the press.