Limits Placed on U.S. Soldiers Online, Journalists in Iraq

As of May 14, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) began "blocking access 'worldwide' to YouTube, MySpace and 11 other popular Web sites on its computers and networks." General B.B. Bell said the ban would limit "recreational traffic" that had impacted "our official DoD network and bandwidth ability, while posing a significant operational security challenge." While members of the military "can still access the sites on their own computers and networks," many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan only have access to DoD computers. The ban covers sites used by soldiers to keep in touch with family and friends, and comes shortly after an order requiring soldiers to pre-clear blog posts and public emails. Editor & Publisher reports that the Iraqi government "will soon routinely ban journalists from the sites of bombings and other violent incidents." Iraq's Interior Ministry Operations Director said the ban was not "a curtailment of press freedom," and is needed "to protect journalists," to safeguard evidence, to deny terrorists "information that they achieved their goals," and to respect human rights, "by not photographing dead bodies."


On May 15, the Associated Press ran [ a follow-up story] confirming that the ban on journalists reporting from attack sites is being enforced:

Police prevented TV cameramen and news photographers from filming the scene of a bombing Tuesday under a new policy limiting coverage of the devastating explosions that have become a hallmark of Iraq's violence.

To enforce its order that a group of Iraqi journalists leave Tayaran Square, where the bombing occurred, police fired several shots in the air, reporters said.

Another update, [ from]:

One day after the Pentagon banned US military personnel worldwide from accessing the wildly popular YouTube Web site via DoD computers and networks, the weekly electronic newsletter of the US-led Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) today makes a banner appeal for US forces and others to watch MNF-I's new YouTube channel.

Oops. ...

The [ MNF-I YouTube channel] has garnered more than a million video viewings -- many surely from US military personnel who are featured on the channel, whose contributions to the channel are sought by commanders, and who as of yesterday are banned from accessing YouTube via their DoD computers and DoD Web connections.