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Less Reporters In Bed With Military

You know the situation in Eye-Rack is bad when there are less reporters being protected by the military in exchange for favorable press:

Fewer reporters embedded in Iraq By LEE KEATH and ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writers Sun Oct 15, 2:41 PM ET

The number of embedded journalists reporting alongside U.S. troops in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level of the war even as the conflict heats up on the streets of Baghdad and in the U.S. political campaign.

In the past few weeks, the number of journalists reporting assigned to U.S. military units in Iraq has settled to below two dozen. Late last month, it fell to 11, its lowest, and has rebounded only slightly since.

During the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, more than 600 reporters, TV crews and photographers linked up with U.S. and British units. A year ago, when Iraqis went to the polls to ratify a new constitution, there were 114 embedded journalists.

"This is more than pathetic," said Sig Christenson, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and president of Military Reporters and Editors, a journalists' group. "It strikes me as dangerous" for the American public to get so little news of their military, said Christenson, who recently returned from an embedded assignment in Iraq.

There may be a silver lining to the media not being in bed with the military, though:

Embed dispatches are not censored. But journalists must follow rules to protect military secrets, such as plans for upcoming operations. They are subject to being kicked out if the commander finds a story inappropriate, and there is no appeal.

After a story last year that painted an unflattering but accurate picture of violence and conditions in Fallujah, one Marine public affairs officer said he was not approving any more embeds to that city.

In another case, Associated Press correspondent Todd Pitman, who reported this year from Ramadi, said he was ordered by a colonel to pack his bags after writing about tricks that insurgents use.

"One of the colonel's intelligence advisers advised him that I hadn't given away anything the insurgents didn't already know, so the colonel changed his mind and let me stay," Pitman said.

Antonio Castaneda, who reported from 30 Marine and Army battalions over an 18-month assignment for the AP, had a similar experience. He wrote in April about families fleeing violence in Dora, a Baghdad neighborhood where Sunni-Shiite tension runs high.

"The day after the Dora story was printed, I was visited by a soldier who delivered the message that my coverage was disproportionately negative," Castaneda said.

Castaneda's requests for more embeds in the Baghdad area were ignored until a senior U.S. officer interceded. On his next assignment, Castaneda quoted an Army captain as saying radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr appeared more popular than Iraqi authorities in one Shiite neighborhood.

He later learned that the captain had been reprimanded for the remark.