The Department of Defense has ordered two reporters and a photographer to leave Guantanamo today. The decision led the journalists’ editors to characterize the move as an attempt to stifle any unfavorable press in the wake of Saturday’s detainee suicides. The Pentagon, on the other hand, adamantly denies this charge, and says that the decision was made after other news organizations threatened to sue if their reporters were not also allowed access:
The Pentagon spokesman told E&P that recent activities surrounding the suicides of three detainees required heavier security and the removal of outside media.
“We told [the journalists] on Monday that we are in a difficult position,” said Gordon, the Pentagon press officer. “We are trying to be impartial and fair.” He added that pressure from other media outlets to be given similar access also forced the complete press ban. “We are between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
He told E&P that Williams and Rosenberg were originally part of a 10-person media group invited to arrive Saturday to cover a military tribunal set for this week. But on Saturday, the tribunal, also known in the military as a commission, had been postponed following last week’s suicides of three detainees. Press Officer Gordon said the Pentagon informed all 10 journalists on Saturday that they were not allowed to visit. All 10, including reporters from Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal, had planned to arrive via military aircraft.
But he said that Williams and Rosenberg arrived on their own, via a commercial aircraft, and were allowed to be on. Michael Gordon, who had also arrived Saturday, was allowed to remain for his story. “We didn’t like it, we didn’t think it was appropriate,” the press officer said of their arrivals. “But it was plausible.”
By Sunday, however, J.D. Gordon said he began getting complaints from other news outlets, such as Fox News, AP, CNN, and Reuters, claiming that their reporters should be allowed on the island if the three other journalists were there. “The other media started to have a mini-phone riot,” he told E&P. “‘Hey, why are they there?’ We had a major issue on our hands for other media to ‘either get them in there or we have to see you in court.’”
The journalists who were ordered to leave can thank their colleagues at other news organizations for getting them kicked out.