'Bush used Thatcher tactics to control media'

George Bush has copied tactics pioneered by Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands war to control the media.

This is the view of Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie who is due to speak at the launch of the Reuters Institute of Journalism tonight.

In a speech entitled "Journalism after Iraq", Downie is expected to say: “Most governments have become more aggressive in their efforts to control the flow of information and shape the messages reported by the news media – especially in times of crisis.

“Wartime information control tactics employed by the Bush administration appear to be vestiges of what American officials and military leaders believed they learned from how the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher managed coverage of the 1982 Falklands War.”

A preview of the speech, put out by Oxford University, revealed that Bush tactics learned from Thatcher according to Downie include: “to hand-pick and supervise British journalists allowed to accompany forces into a war-zone; the use of propaganda and purposeful misinformation about decision-making and strategy; and spoon-feeding so-called lobby journalists in daily secret briefings.”

On current threats to journalism, Downie will say “reporters around the world are in more danger and face more intimidation and government restrictions every year…It is time to make a more concerted effort to reverse this trend. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, founded with a worldwide news organisation and located in a bastion of intellectual freedom, could help lead such an effort.”

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism describes itself as “a partnership between academics and journalists to study the content of journalism in an international, comparative framework.”

It is based in the Department of Politics and International Relations and sponsored by the Reuters Foundation.

Downie has been executive editor of The Washington Post since 1991, after being managing editor for seven years. He has been at the Post since 1964.

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