Freedom of the press versus military to control the press

The military and the press always work for the betterment of their country, but there is always dissension between them. Usually the military censors panicky news. No war has ever been so abundantly covered by the media. The media’s duty is to bring out the actual facts to be presented to the public. The public must be aware of the day to day happening in the world. Saddam Hussein and the Pentagon controlled the press during the Persian Gulf war.

At the start Saddam Hussein controlled the press, when the news was published about the sending out of his wife and children to a safe place. Time magazine reported this statement: "From every indication, Saddam was preparing to avenge the transgressions mightily. ‘Everybody who tries to undermine security,’ said the Baghdad newspaper Al Thawra, ‘shall regret it. They will pay.’"1 This statement is enough to prove that he had controlled the press. Also in the war’s second day, Saddam Hussein arrested and confined five news reporters. The proof is there in the rather disenchanted remarks of the journalist who were seen on the CBC television on January 28, 1991. If it is so, where is the freedom of the press? Saddam Hussein might have controlled the press to prevent any possible turbulence among his people.

The Pentagon did not provide the news to the journalist, regarding the loss of civilian lives and the damage caused to the primary needs of the people in Baghdad, because before the war started, President George Bush said that they would only destroy the military pools of Saddam Hussein. An issue of Time reported as follows: "On ‘last resort,’ the President contended that ‘extraordinary diplomatic efforts’ had preceded hostilities. On discrimination and proportionality, Bush insisted that ‘we are doing everything possible, believe me, to avoid hurting the innocent.’"2 Did George Bush keep his promise? When the daily press reporters questioned U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the allied forces in the Gulf, he did not answer all questions, especially pertaining to civilians. He always maintained by showing sketches, that his forces were only attacking the military pools of Saddam Hussein. He never breathed a word regarding the loss of several thousands of innocent civilian lives and damaging the primary needs of the people. But allied forces had decimated many innocent lives and destroyed the primary needs of the people in Baghdad, such as the water supply, electricity, telecommunication, and many buildings. Time magazine reported as follows: "Power stations, telephone and telegraph centers, oil refineries and factories have been reduced to smouldering ruins. Tens of thousands of unknown civilians, are dead."3 And "Baghdad residents have had no tap water or electricity. Sewage systems overflowing with garbage are creating a health hazard. Surgical operation at hospitals have been conducted by candlelight without morphine."4 Also Time magazine stated; "The Iraqis said the allied bombs had demolished a factory in Baghdad devoted to making formula for infants. A helpful sign in the ruins identified the place in Arabic and English: BABY MILK FACTORY."5 Is the huge signboard "BABY MILK FACTOR" not visible to the eyes of the armies? Sure, it is! The Pentagon during the Persian Gulf war censored this information, but the press had published some of this news. The military would have suppressed this information, thinking that the world would be disturbed and protest against them.

About one-third of the Persian Gulf war the Pentagon expurgated news, and at the same time the press questioned the Pentagon asking "Where is the liberty of press?" It is mentioned by Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams in Newsweek magazine that "32% Too controlled by the Pentagon."6 Federal Judge Leonard Sand ordered Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams to submit to a deposition in a suit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the legality of the rules. Also Time magazine reported: "The Pentagon and the Bush Administration have come close to achieving their goal of forcing journalists-and the public-to rely solely on the information supplied by briefers or gathered in pool interviews in the field."7 And also stated an issue of Newsweek "But to ‘trust’ the word of the government without being able to report the story on their own is alien to the very nature of journalism."8 If the press has no right to write all the news, then were are the freedom of press? Also it is stated: "Reporters realize that certain military details, conveyed via CNN, could help Saddam Hussein."9 The military had their reason to censor the news. Also Pentagon had a good experience during the Vietnam war, that time the media divulged all causalities day-by-day, the public got panicked and they protested against them. Gary Lautens speaks about the awareness of responsibilities as well as rights. In an article entitled "Think of our Duties", January 7, 1991 in the ‘Toronto Star’, he talks extensively about responsibilities people should be aware of. It would be well for the press and the military, to be aware of their own responsibilities.

The militaries had censored some of the facts during the Persian Gulf war, the press did his/her best to publish more news. The conflict between the sward and the press will never end. The great soldier Napoleon who become Emperor of France, once remarked "The ancients had a great advantage over us in that, their armies are not trailed by a second army of pen pushers."

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