David Carlson, President. (352) 846-0171, Carlson@spj.org
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927 -8000, ext. 211, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS – The Pentagon's decision to expel journalists from Guantanamo Bay in the aftermath of three suicides at the highly controversial prison facility is unconscionable given the public interest in the evolving story, said David Carlson, president of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Reporters with the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were ordered by the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to leave the island days after the suicides. A third reporter and a photographer with the Charlotte Observer were given the option of staying through today but later were told their access to the prison camp was denied.
At a time when the United States military fights for the cause of democracy and works to strengthen the credibility of Guantanamo, the removal is inappropriate and counterproductive. If ever a moment calls for transparency, it is when the United States government insists that it has nothing to hide.
"This is the sort of banana-republic intimidation of the press we sneer at when it occurs on other points on the globe," said Charles N. Davis, co-chairman of SPJ's Freedom of Information Committee. "The American public deserves nothing less than knowing what's going on at Guantanamo." Davis also is executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and an associate professor of journalism at the University of Missouri.
Carlson said "Closing access to journalists is hardly the example the government of the United States should be setting. Our nation is founded on the concept that access to information is what enables Americans to practice self government." He is also the Cox/Palm Beach Post Professor of New Media Journalism at the University of Florida.
"This form of censorship does not protect Americans from terrorists and will not sit well with the world or U.S. citizens," said David Cuillier, an SPJ FOI Committee member and professor of journalism at the University of Arizona who researches public attitudes toward access to government information.
"The American public accepts some secrecy when it protects us from attacks," Cuillier said. "But Americans strongly oppose government tactics that smack of corruption and cover-up. People want responsible government, not dictators."
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The nation's most broad-based journalism organization, SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.