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The right to know.

In a global village, all the world is truly a stage. And, according to John Walcott, foreign editor for US News and World Report, some of the finest actors in the drama of today are terrorists.

"Terrorism is in large part theater," he said. "Its real power over us and over policy is as theater."

Walcott spoke at ASIS's 10th Annual Government/Industry Conference on Terrorism as part of a three-person panel on the media and terrorism. The conference was held in March in Washington, DC.

He explained that the press is an indispensable tool of terrorism, so journalists are constantly walking the line between saying too much and saying too little.

"We share in common with the federal government the responsibility to warn our readers or viewers...that a threat exists," Walcott said. He explained that this responsibility, along with the responsibilities to protect due process and the intelligence processes, help journalists decide how much coverage is enough.

But even though the government and the media share responsibilities, they sometimes work at cross purposes. Michael L. "Mickey" Drake, chief of the FBI's press office, explained the sometimes adversarial relationship by pointing out the challenge of balancing the public's right to know with an individual's right.

Walcott, along with Gerald Seib, a journalist with The Wall Street Journal who also spoke at the conference, stressed that government officials and journalists need to develop a trust. If they work together to balance the rights of the public with the rights of individuals, the journalist will have a better ideas of what the public needs to know.

Seib, who was abducted in Iran while working on a story, said, "The experience left me believing there are things people don't need to know about." He was referring specifically to the time and place of his release. He went on to say that he believes most journalists draw the line responsibly. Seib told the audience of security professionals that should their company be the subject of media coverage, they should voice their concerns over disclosure of sensitive information to the journalist covering the story. If a good reason for withholding information exists, the journalist will use discretion. "Sanity will prevail," he said.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:freedom of information and journalistic responsibility
Publication:Security Management
Date:May 1, 1992
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