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Guest freddy kreuger

At U.S. Request, Networks Agree to Edit Future bin Laden Tapes

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Guest freddy kreuger

At U.S. Request, Networks Agree to Edit Future bin Laden Tapes


October 11, 2001







The five major television news organizations reached a

joint agreement yesterday to follow the suggestion of the

White House and abridge any future videotaped statements

from Osama bin Laden or his followers to remove language

the government considers inflammatory.


The decision, the first time in memory that the networks

had agreed to a joint arrangement to limit their

prospective news coverage, was described by one network

executive as a "patriotic" decision that grew out of a

conference call between the nation's top television news

executives and the White House national security adviser,

Condoleezza Rice, yesterday morning.


The five news organizations, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News,

along with its subsidiary, MSNBC, the Cable News Network

and the Fox News Channel all had broadcast, unedited, a

taped message from Mr. bin Laden on Sunday. On Tuesday, the

all-news cable channels, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, also

carried the complete speech of a spokesmen for Al Qaeda.


Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, indicated in his

news briefing yesterday that Ms. Rice was primarily

concerned that terrorists could be using the broadcasts to

send coded messages to other terrorists, but the network

executives said in interviews that this was only a

secondary consideration.


They said Ms. Rice mainly argued that the tapes enabled Mr.

bin Laden to vent propaganda intended to incite hatred and

potentially kill more Americans.


The executives said that they would broadcast only short

parts of any tape issued by Al Qaeda and would eliminate

any passages containing flowery rhetoric urging violence

against Americans. They agreed to accompany the tapes with

reports providing what they called appropriate context.


They also agreed to avoid repeatedly showing excerpts from

the tapes, which they had previously done in what one

executive described as "video wallpaper."


One network, ABC, said it would limit the use of moving

images from tapes released by Mr. Bin Laden or Al Qaeda,

mostly relying on a still picture from a frame of the tape

and the printed text of whatever message was being



The coverage of the aftermath of the terrorists attacks on

New York and the Pentagon has generated intense competitive

pressure among the television news organizations, which has

increased this week as the news divisions labored to find

images to continue documenting American attacks on



The tapes have been broadcast by the Arabic language

satellite network Al Jazeera and picked up by the American



The news executives said they had never previously

consulted one other en masse and come to an agreement on a

policy about coverage.


But they said the current circumstances were unlike any

others they had encountered.


"This is a new situation, a new war and a new kind of

enemy," said Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News.

"Given the historic events we're enmeshed in, it's

appropriate to explore new ways of fulfilling our

responsibilities to the public."


The presidents of the news divisions all said that Ms. Rice

had not tried to coerce them.


"She was very gentle, very diplomatic, very deft," said

Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News.


Walter Isaacson, the chairman of CNN, said, "It was very

useful to hear their information and their thinking." He

added, "After hearing Dr. Rice, we're not going to step on

the land mines she was talking about."


Mr. Isaacson did not specify what information Ms. Rice had

provided that led to the executives' decision.


"Her biggest point," said Neal Shapiro, the president of

NBC News, "was that here was a charismatic speaker who

could arouse anti- American sentiment getting 20 minutes of

air time to spew hatred and urge his followers to kill



The notion that Mr. bin Laden was sending messages to

followers through the tapes seemed less than credible to

several of the executives.


"What sense would it make to keep the tapes off the air if

the message could be found transcripted in newspapers or on

the Web?" said one network executive, who spoke on

condition of anonymity. "The videos could also appear on

the Internet. They'd get the message anyway."


The unusual interaction between the White House and

television executives was set up late Tuesday evening when

Ms. Rice called each executive. They gathered in their

offices at 9 a.m. for the conference call.


She spoke with them for about 20 minutes, explaining her

reservations about allowing Mr. bin Laden such access to

American television. A White House official familiar with

the phone call said Ms Rice had two concerns: that the

messages would reach any remaining terrorist cells in the

United States and would also inflame Muslim populations in

such places as Malaysia and the Philippines, who would see

the tapes through international channels of CNN and NBC.


Ms. Rice answered questions. Then she hung up. But the

executives had agreed before the call to stay on the line

and talk among themselves.


The networks were not the first news organizations to

acquiesce to an administration requests to edit or withhold



Leonard Downie Jr., the executive editor of The Washington

Post, said yesterday that "a handful of times" in the past

month, the newspaper's reporting had prompted calls from

administration officials who "raised concerns that a

specific story or more often that certain facts in a

certain story, would compromise national security."


Mr. Downie added, "In some instances we have kept out of

stories certain facts that we agreed could be detrimental

to national security and not instrumental to our readers,

such as methods of intelligence collection."


Clark Hoyt, the Washington editor of Knight Ridder, said

his organization had decided to hold back a report about

"some small units of U.S. special operations forces had

entered Afghanistan and were trying to locate bin Laden"

within two weeks of the attacks on the Pentagon and the

World Trade Center.


Howell Raines, the executive editor of The New York Times,

said that since Sept. 11, Times executives had not had any

conversations with government officials about the handling

of sensitive information.


Mr. Raines said: "Our longstanding practice has been that

if a high government official wants to talk to us about

security issues, we're available for that conversation. We

also would feel free to seek guidance if there was

information in our judgment that might be sensitive."


The networks' decision has not raised serious protests

among television journalists. Ted Koppel, the ABC

"Nightline" anchor, said, "If we want to run some of the

videotape, our understanding is we're still free to do it."



But, Mr. Koppel said, the videotapes by and large have not

been compelling enough for long showings.


The CBS anchor, Dan Rather, said: "By nature and

experience, I'm always wary when the government seeks in

any way to have a hand in editorial decisions. But this is

an extraordinary time. In the context of this time, the

conversation as I understand it seems reasonable on both


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That's a touchy subject. Government controlled media would be a very scary thing, but then again media controlled government (funding, etc.) has been an underlying campaign technique for quite some time. However, the fact that 'Ms. Rice' only stated facts then left it up to the News executives themselves to make their own call really says a lot. It says a lot about the government for recognizing and making aware the potential harm vs. good these tapes will do. It also says, you see our point, and I have faith as you as an American to make the smartest decision on how to run your company in accordance with the protection of your people. I would have felt completely comfterable never having seen the video of Osama Bin Laden. It only underlined a point that was already there, he hates America and wants us to be wiped off the planet. The fact they keep investigative information off of the air also affects me very little. I would be more than happy to have my life monitered unknowingly by the FBI for terrorism links if it meant saving this country from more devistation. I think as a citizen it's my right and for our own benifit that each of us know the skeleton of what's going on with the war, but I think the 'compelling' details are innate. Though interesting, nowhere near worth risking our own safety over.


All that aside, we still have to keep a close eye on media censoring. Second guess everything, and know your own truths.

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