Friday, May 27, 2005

An open letter to Linda Foley

I'm a reporter for a major newspaper in the northeastern US. I'm also a member of the Newspaper Guild. As a reporter at the Detroit Free Press in 1995, I participated in a strike against that newspaper, a strike which cost me my job, because I would not cross the picket line.

I take my membership in the Guild very seriously. That's why I was dismayed to learn that you, the president of my union, made a speech on May 13 in which you asserted that the US military has deliberately killed journalists. The relevant portion of the speech was videotaped and is available for viewing here.

Since then, you have failed to provide supporting evidence for your remarks, but neither have you retracted them. I spoke with you at 11:10 AM today by telephone; union secretary-treasurer Bernard Lunzer was also on the call.

When I told you that I would publish your response to me on the Internet, you declined further comment--except for the following: "I am not going to discuss this with you on the eve of Memorial Day weekend."

This remark strikes me as extremely odd. I can't think of a better time to redeem the honor of the US military by beginning a serious investigation of outrageous conduct on its part. If our soldiers are deliberately killing journalists, it's our duty to publicize it, so that such a terrible stain on our nation's integrity may be quickly cleansed.

If, as I believe, your charge is false, I can think of no better time to retract this slander.

There's a third possibility, though it seems to me a very remote one. I don't see how it's possible to misinterpret your remarks, which seem to me quite clear and unambiguous. But I'd be delighted to learn that I have misunderstood them.

I hold out some hope here, as I've just read a piece on the Editor & Publisher website, written by Thomas Lipscomb, who has covered this controversy for the Chicago Sun-Times. Lipscomb wrote that "Foley insists that she 'doesn't believe that our service men and women would knowingly fire on journalists and innocent civilians.' "

This might be the end of it, except that earlier you made statements that sought to distinguish between "the US military" from individual soldiers. This raises the possibility that you still believe that the military high command is somehow seeking the deaths of journaiists.

Up to now, your efforts at clarification have merely muddied the waters. I declare myself confused, and I'm not happy about it. I want to be clear about where my union's president stands on this issue.

I therefore call upon you to state clearly and unambiguously whether you believe that any branch of the US military or government has adopted a deliberate policy of targeting journalists in war zones. This is a simple question, easily answered. I can see no rational reason for you to hesitate about answering it.

At a time when the public's trust in the integrity of journalism is at a new low, our profession can't afford to encourage the perception that we're economical with the truth. I trust you'll put aside your hesitation and immediately explain yourself publicly, in a way that leaves no further doubt about your views on this matter.

Thanks for reading.

Hiawatha Bray