Journalism educators criticize restrictive post-Sept. 11 policies

SOUTH CAROLINA — An international association ofjournalism educators has formally expressed its concern over thepost-Sept. 11 policies of the Bush administration.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications,a U.S.-based organization of 3,300 professors, scholars and practitionersof journalism and mass media, announced its concern in the formof three resolutions passed by its executive committee.

"No one denies the imperative of free nations to act stronglyagainst terrorism and terrorists," the resolutions state,"but such measures should be undertaken judiciously and inbalance with the freedoms for which America stands."

The group is sending its comments to members of the Bush administration,Congress, and selected other governmental and nongovernmentalorganizations in hopes of spurring public debate on the issue.

The first resolution calls for law enforcement agencies tomake public the names of detained individuals. Shortly after Sept.11, the Justice Department announced that it would stop releasinginformation relating to those incarcerated in the anti-terrorisminvestigation. "A free society simply cannot stand by quietly,"the resolution stated, "when people are taken from its midstand the government refuses to identify those it has captured."

The second resolution criticizes the military tribunals PresidentBush has said he will use to try terrorist suspects. "Thesecret tribunals ordered by the Bush administration look verymuch like summary courts in other nations against which the UnitedStates has protested vigorously as running counter to due process,"the resolution observed. The group asks that the executive andlegislative branches review and revise these measures.

The final resolution protests administration policies "thathave served to curb the free flow of information necessary toa democratic society." This section is aimed at a recentmemo from Attorney General John Ashcroft, which urged federalemployees to resist Freedom of Information Act requests. "WhileAEJMC strongly supports efforts to fight international terrorism,its leaders submit that a well informed citizenry is a betterdefense against acts of terror than a citizenry left in the darkby its elected leaders," the group said.

Said Joe Foote, the organization’s president and director ofthe Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communicationat Arizona State University, "The AEJMC Executive Committeeis particularly interested in seeing that journalists maintainthe kind of access to government that they have traditionallyenjoyed in a democracy."