Dan Rather says U.S. patriotism leads some journalists to self-censorship

5/21/2002

 

LONDON (AP) - Patriotism has been so strong in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks that it sometimes prevents American journalists from asking tough questions about the war on terrorism, CBS News anchor Dan Rather said recently on British TV.

"What we are talking about here - whether one wants to recognize it or not, or call it by its proper name or not - is a form of self-censorship," Rather said on the British Broadcasting Corp. Newsnight TV show.

"It starts with a feeling of patriotism within oneself. It carries through with a certain knowledge that the country as a whole - and for all the right reasons - felt and continues to feel this surge of patriotism within themselves," he said.

"And one finds oneself saying, "I know the right question, but you know what? This is not exactly the right time to ask it,' " said Rather.

As the BBC interview was being shown in Britain, the White House was facing questions about its decision not to alert the American public in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks that Osama bin Laden wanted to hijack U.S. airplanes.

Rather said that "patriotism run amok" is making it difficult for journalists to provide Americans with all the information they need about the war in Afghanistan and to hold the Bush administration accountable.

He also accused the Bush administration of failing to give journalists full access to the fighting and the information it has about the war.

"There has never been an American war, small or large, in which access has been so limited as this one," Rather said, adding that he was sorry to say that the American people have accepted these limitations.

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