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8 Publications Challenge Curbs by Pentagon on Gulf Coverage

January 11, 1991| Associated Press

NEW YORK — Eight publications filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the constitutionality of Pentagon rules governing news media access in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. District Court lawsuit seeks an order blocking the government from enforcing the rules unless it can show a "bona fide security justification."

The rules establish pool coverage, restrict descriptions of combat and require military review of combat dispatches.

The publications, which are often critical of government policy, are The Nation, In These Times, the Guardian, Progressive Magazine, Mother Jones Magazine, L.A. Weekly, the Village Voice and Harper's.

Also suing are Pacific News Service, novelists William Styron and E. L. Doctorow and writers Sydney H. Schanberg, a columnist for Newsday, and Michael Klare, the defense correspondent for The Nation. The novelists say they plan to write about the gulf crisis for The Nation.

The lawsuit said the Pentagon's position that the rules were adopted for security reasons was a cover for the rules' true purpose--"to control and manipulate information available to the American public."

"They don't want us to have a front-row seat because they're worried that if we bring the public to that front-row seat, they'll lose public support and congressional support," Schanberg said.

Lt. Col. Steve Roy, a Pentagon spokesman, said the government had not yet heard of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

The Pentagon restrictions, especially the military review of combat dispatches, have been criticized by other news organizations. ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN complained about the rules in a letter to Cheney. The Associated Press, in a separate letter, objected to the security review provisions.

The lawsuit alleged that the Pentagon had drastically limited press access since the Vietnam War, when reporters were free to travel with military units that would have them.

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