Military Reporters & Editors Stands With Stars and Stripes On Proposed Access Restrictions

Journalists at the Defense Department’s Independent Newspaper Face Limits on Their First Amendment Rights

WASHINGTON, June 23 – One of the fundamental tools journalists have for shining light where needed is unfettered access to sources who can speak freely without being monitored by a minder.

That right is in peril for journalists at Stars and Stripes.

New rules proposed in the Federal Register (Vol. 89, No. 79) and open for public comment until Monday, June 24, could greatly reduce their vital access to sources.

As proposed, the rules state that reporters “may” ask questions of DOD officials, and “may” cover events pen to Stripes journalists who have installation access as Defense Department employees.

“My problem is with the word ‘may,’” Stripes ombudsman Jacqueline Smith writes in objecting to the proposal. “It denotes permission; it is not absolute. It leaves the interpretation to someone, for example a public affairs officer, whether a reporter may — or may not — ask questions or cover an event.”

This new proposal comes on top of other chilling challenges faced by Stripes journalists that no others have.

The government blocks Stripes journalists from filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests for work purposes. And Stripes, an independent news organization funded by the Pentagon, is also prohibited from republishing classified or controlled unclassified information already published in other media. That means Stripes readers — the military, their families and other government employees and contractors — cannot see information that is obtainable elsewhere.

Smith, Stripes’ ombudsman, calls it censorship. Military Reporters & Editors (MRE), an organization dedicated to fighting for the rights of journalists, agrees.

MRE believes the policy prohibiting the use of FOIAs by Stripes journalists is an onerous impediment to fulfilling the rights and responsibilities of the First Amendment. Stripes journalists also must be allowed to have access to personnel without requiring a public affairs handler. And the ban on republishing classified or controlled classified information already in the public realm is an archaic concept that too must be stricken.

Stars and Stripes has a history of providing news and information to troops and families that dates to the Civil War. The proposed and existing rules threaten that tradition.

MRE vociferously opposes the proposed rule change. These are rights, not privileges, enjoyed by all other journalists in this great nation. Those working at Stripes must have them as well.

MRE | Military Reporters & Editors Mission

  • Advance the public understanding of the military, national security, and homeland defense.
  • Represent the interests of working journalists to the government and military.
  • Assure journalists have access to places where the U.S. military and its allies operate.
  • Provide resources, support. educational and networking opportunities for members, fostering excellence in journalism.

For more information, visit the MRE website at