innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Journalists Fight Right to Stay at Guantanamo

This article ran in the LA Times Thursday, June 15, 2006.

Journalists Forced Off Guantanamo
The four were covering the suicides at the island prison. The Pentagon, citing other requests for access, says it's only fair.
By James Rainey, Times Staff WriterJune 15, 2006

Editors at the Los Angeles Times and two other newspapers protested the Pentagon decision to expel their reporters Wednesday from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the journalists were reporting on the weekend suicides of three prisoners.

Journalists from The Times, the Miami Herald and the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer had received permission from the prison's commander to be at the U.S. facility, where terrorism suspects are held and interrogated. The three reporters and an Observer photographer left the island Wednesday on orders from the Pentagon.

A civilian spokeswoman at the Pentagon said the reporters had to leave because at least five other news outlets wanted to cover the suicides but did not get permission from Guantanamo commanders.

"The Defense Department wants to be fair and impartial," said spokeswoman Cynthia Smith. "We got them on the next flight out of Guantanamo Bay to be fair to the rest of the media outlets that did not get a chance to go down there."

Smith said the reporters could not all be granted access to the prison because Guantanamo military personnel were preoccupied with investigating the suicides and enhancing security, and would not have had time to supervise more journalists. She said the other journalists worked for Reuters, the Associated Press, CNN and two British newspapers.

But the three newspapers that had reporters at Guantanamo to cover the suicides said the military should be doing everything possible to increase public knowledge about the prison."

Expelling Carol Williams and her colleagues represents a Stone Age attitude that only feeds suspicions about what is going on at Guantanamo," said Los Angeles Times Managing Editor Doug Frantz. "If the military hierarchy has nothing to hide, it should have respected the invitation extended by the [prison] commander and the professionalism of the journalists."

The military's 4 1/2 -year detention of terrorism suspects at the U.S. military facility in Cuba has been criticized by American allies and human rights groups.

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