Military Reporters Group Seeks Changes to Embed Rules

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By: Joe Strupp

Citing a need to clarify and change restrictions on embedded reporters, Military Reporters and Editors (MRE) has formed a committee to review the current polices for instituting rules on embeds and possibly seek changes, MRE officials said.

MRE President Sig Christenson, who covers the military for the San Antonio Express-News, sent a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday informing him of the comittee and asking that Pentagon officials aide the group in its review.

“We ask that your office assist them as they perform their work,” the letter said. “Once the report is completed, we will ask that you work with MRE to draft a single set of ground rules for use in all theaters.”

Christenson said the committee would include former Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters and veteran war correspondents Joe Galloway and David Wood.

The MRE effort was sparked by an October incident in which a reporter and photographer for the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk lost their embedding credentials after publishing a photo of a damaged military vehicle. Pentagon officials cited a rule barring such publications, which had not been in the original embed guidelines of 2003, having been added late by that unit’s commander.

“We at MRE share the Pentagon’s concern about ensuring operational security,” the MRE letter added. “Many of us, after all, are veteran war correspondents who lived up to the spirit and the letter of the ground rules agreement we signed prior to and since the invasion of Iraq — a document that did not include the provision regarding no photography of battle-damaged vehicles.” The letter said that that incident “has prompted MRE and journalism organizations around the country to call into question not only the conduct of [military] personnel in this case but also these agreements.”

Pentagon officials could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday, but several spokesmen had said weeks ago they would be glad to listen to any MRE input on embed rules. “They are a great advocate for representing reporters and if they have some ideas, I would be glad to listen,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in October. “Anything we can do to facilitate and make it easier, we will do.”

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