November 15, 2015

JOURNALISM: CNN’s counterterrorism coverage raises ethics questions.

CNN on Friday came dangerously close to violating longstanding journalism ethics on hostage-taking situations and terrorist events, by live-broadcasting French counterterrorism measures as they were taking place in Paris. . . .

As counterterrorism experts geared up to storm the concert hall, looking to rescue the few who hadn’t been executed yet, a CNN producer, Pierre Buet, reported live on their movements from his hiding spot in a nearby bush.

“I believe this is police trying to get inside the building from the side of the building,” Buet said in a phone interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, as live images of the terrorism event played across the screen.

“There were gunshots five minutes ago and ten minutes ago. I believe these were gunshots from the police trying to get in the building, trying to break doors and break to through walls to get inside the buildings. I don’t believe these were gunshots from terrorists,” he added. “Right now, what I can see is police, those police and firemen trying to get to evacuate about 20 or 28 hostages from the first floor of the building.”

Blizter said, “Even as we speak right now, Pierre, you can see what’s going on. How close are you to the actual theater?”

“I’m about 40 yards away, yeah, 30, 40 yards away,” Buet responded. “I’m actually hidden in the bushes. Police have tried to clear off journalists from the scene, so that’s why I’m not talking too loud as you can probably hear. Police don’t want us journalists being here.” . . .

The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalism, advises that, “In covering a developing raid or law enforcement action, journalists are advised to: Be extremely cautious to not compromise the secrecy of officials’ planning and execution.”

“If staking out a location where a raid will occur or if accompanying officers, reporters, and photographers should demonstrate great caution in how they act, where they go, and what clues they might inadvertently give that might compromise the execution of the raid. They should check and double-check planning efforts,” the group added in a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts.

These sentiments cross national borders.

This is CNN.

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