Pentagon’s Law of War manual revises military journalists’ status

Department of Defense Law of War Manual June 2015 (Updated December 2016)

The Pentagon has revised its Law of War manual.

Concerns were raised by Military Reporters & Editors Association members last year at the organization’s conference when the manual was initially released. Sections of the manual were written in such a manner that field commanders could classify civilian journalists as enemy combatants.

“Military, Reporters & Editors was very happy to see that the Pentagon heard our concerns and updated the Law of War manual to make it clear that journalists are not combatants. There should no longer be a question as to whether a reporter operating down range will be punished simply for doing his or her job,” said MRE president Amy McCullough.

The revised manual clarifies the section, and sets journalists as protected civilians.

Here are the relevant notations from the manual:

3. Substantial revisions to the discussion of journalists in § 4.24.

  • a. Added references to DoD and U.S. Government policy recognizing the importance of the role of journalists in armed conflict.
  • b. Reorganized and revised the section to emphasize the protection of journalists as civilians and to clarify that a journalist would only be considered a combatant on an exceptional basis when that person had acquired such status.
  • c. Added more sources, including relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions, DoD policies, and examples of relevant DoD or other practice.
  • d. Added discussion of, and reference to, DoD policies relating to interactions with the press to avoid any misimpression that the manual would revise such DoD policies.
  • e. Revised the section to focus on the contexts most relevant to DoD practitioners (e.g., added an example from DoD practice of ensuring that media access to military operations is consistent with law of war obligations, such as the obligation to protect detainees against public curiosity).
  • f. Revised the cross-reference from § 4.24.2 to § 4.24.1 in: i. § (footnote 241) ii. § (footnote 209)

Here is the updated manual as a pdf (it is very large): DoD-Law-of-War-Manual-June-2015-Updated-Dec-2016