(This post is in English, for reasons which will be obvious below.)
Today is World Press Freedom Day. And today I learned, coincidentally, from a Dutch colleague: Dutch journalists, when reporting from their military’s overseas missions, have to submit their stories before publication – to a military censor.
Hey, come on. Military Censor. The Dutch. Of all people.
But indeed, this seems true. And everybody I talked to about this today was puzzled.
So, I’m trying to find out, in the spirit of World Press Freedom Day: Where else do our Western democracies censor reporting from the battlefield? From wars which are not wars but, usually, peace missions under an United Nations umbrella?
(Well, I know, the UN does it the other extreme – even banning encrypted radio traffic in the field when it’s a Blue Helmet mission. But that’s not the question here.)
I’d like to have an overview how our – i.e. in the West, in NATO and EU – armed forces implement the idea of press freedom. Maybe that’s naive. But before we discuss what should be (or not), we should have an idea what is…
So, everybody’s contributions to this are welcome, especially from outside Germany (and that’s why this post is in English).
Let me make the start – of course, with GERMANY:
Germany’s constitution, the Grundgesetz, states in its Article 5: There shall be no censorship. So, there is no legal reason for a journalist reporting from the Bundeswehr’s overseas missions (of course, Afghanistan comes to mind first) for the armed forces to demand submission of stories before publication.
(As always, common sense applies – a reporter who might be endangering the troops by reporting full names of military personnel, flaws in the design of armour or accuracy – or lack thereof – of recce equipment or weapons systems or similar things might find himself de facto banned from further field reporting. And I would consider this rightly so, although it might be difficult to prove.)
But common sense aside – what’s the regulation on this in other European countries, the U.S., Australia, to name a few?