WASHINGTON – New Defense Department guidelines allow commanders to punish journalists and treat them as "unprivileged belligerents" if they believe journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy.
The Law of War manual, updated to apply for the first time to all branches of the military, contains a vaguely worded provision that military commanders could interpret broadly, experts in military law and journalism say. Commanders could ask journalists to leave military bases or detain journalists for any number of perceived offenses.
Defense officials say it was intended to point out that terrorists or spies could be masquerading as reporters. But experts say it gives commanders too much leeway to deny or control coverage they don't like.