House Takes a Stand Against Pentagon Propaganda

Free Press Urges Senate Action, Criticizes Corporate Media for Trying to Bury the Story
Contact Info: 
Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x22 or (703) 517-6273

WASHINGTON -- The House passed an amendment to the annual defense bill last week that would outlaw the Defense Department from spreading propaganda to the American people. Sponsored by Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the measure would also mandate an investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office into efforts to plant positive news stories about the Iraq war in U.S. media.

Last month, the New York Times exposed a secret Pentagon campaign that embedded 75 military analysts -- many of whom were also employed by defense contractors -- in the nation's news media. Media Matters for America documented that analysts in the Pentagon's program appeared or were quoted in major outlets more than 4,500 times. Yet most of the major networks have failed to cover or follow up on the Times' investigation. The Department of Defense has "temporarily" shut down the program pending an ongoing internal review.

Free Press activists and allies sent more than 100,000 letters to Congress demanding hearings on the Pentagon scandal. Last week, Free Press launched an ad campaign that asks: "The Pentagon is all over the news. So why isn't the news all over the Pentagon?" View the ad at https://freepress.net/files/pentagon_ad.jpg

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, issued the following statement:

"We applaud the House for taking a stand against propaganda. The ease with which the Pentagon conducted this pro-war campaign has struck a damaging blow to the credibility of American journalism. Tainted by secret government manipulation, this scandal goes down as one of the low points of modern media history.

"This scandal should sound the wake-up call for newsrooms and newsreaders. At times of war, the American public needs more critical journalism and diversity of opinion, not less. The media needs to ask tough questions of government, and not simply amplify its propaganda. The failures of consolidated, corporate media are clearly at crisis proportions.

"If ever there was a time for our elected officials to draw a line in the sand, this is it. We need to shut down any government program whose sole purpose is to mislead the public into supporting disastrous wars, policies and politicians.

"We urge the Senate to pass the propaganda ban and send a strong message to the Pentagon and other government agencies that Congress will not allow the manipulation of public opinion."

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net.

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