Joel Campbell, National Freedom of Information Chairman, (801) 422-2125
Christine Tatum, National President, (303) 954-1503
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927 -8000, ext. 211
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists, among the nation’s largest and oldest journalism-advocacy organizations, has drafted a letter asking Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., to withdraw his request to the Pentagon that CNN reporters embedded with American troops be removed.
The Society believes Hunter’s request is tantamount to censorship and prior restraint of a news organization. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Hunter and Reps. Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray, who are also Republicans from California, want to punish CNN because they disagree with the network’s decision to air a controversial video showing insurgent snipers targeting U.S. soldiers. The video aired on Anderson Cooper 360, Thursday, Oct. 19.
“While all may not agree with CNN’s decision to air the video, Hunter’s response is entirely misguided. As Americans we should find any attempt by the government to control, punish or censor the news media offensive,” said Joel Campbell, SPJ's Freedom of Information Committee chairman.
Christine Tatum, SPJ's national president, said: “Americans deserve a free and unfettered press to cover the ongoing conflict in Iraq and elsewhere. American journalists are obliged to seek truth and report it and not be relegated to the role of cheerleaders for American policy.”
At the same time, the Society also asks journalists to follow ethical guidelines in reporting the news and has a widely acknowledged Code of Ethics. The Society also has posted questions journalists should ask themselves when resolving ethical conflicts concerning wartime news coverage on its Web site.
SPJ leaders take CNN producer David Doss at his word that the airing was scrutinized at the highest levels of the news organization and was subject of intense debate. In the end, the actual shooting of an American soldier was not shown. CNN also aired a warning before the video was shown to alert viewers of its graphic nature. The cable channel also tried to put the story into context with other interviews and information.
“Whether or not you agree with us in this case, our goal, as always, is to present the unvarnished truth as best we can,” Doss wrote, noting that some viewers felt the piece went too far while others felt that CNN should have shown the actual shooting.
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.