I am currently researching the effect of the 24-hour news cycle on U.S. Foreign policy during the Gulf War and am looking for primary sources from the U.S. and/or British military pertaining to embedded journalism. Specifically, restrictions and guidelines placed on the press and independent journalists. Some of the sources I've read so far mention restrictions, but don't cite any specific documents. What are these documents and where can I find them? (I imagine they're declassified at this point).

Edit: These are the sources I have read so far: The Media and the Gulf War - Stewart Purvis and Operation Desert Cloud: The Media and the Gulf War - Marie Gottschalk. Both mention censorship by the American government and that it was a factor in how the war was covered.

By Gulf War, I mean Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, starting from the invasion of Kuwait.

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    Welcome to History:SE. What are those sources that you have already read? What exactly did you find? (This is helps people not to have to duplicate your research). Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review our site tour and Help Centre and, in particular, How to Ask. Nov 10, 2019 at 17:24
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    By "Gulf War"" are you referring to the 1990-1 Desert Shield and Desert Storm? Please be precise, and provide links for disambiguation. Nov 10, 2019 at 18:09
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    Sorry, updated question. Nov 10, 2019 at 19:57
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    You may find this Wikipedia article and references helpful en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_coverage_of_the_Gulf_War
    – TheHonRose
    Nov 11, 2019 at 1:46
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    The way I remember it at the time, there was a much bigger problem with US media self-censorship. I had to take to reading foreign news sources (particularly English-language European ones) to try to get a reasonably rounded view of what was going on.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 11, 2019 at 13:42

1 Answer 1


The Guidelines for news media issued by the Pentagon for the 1991 Gulf War were released into the public domain during the legal case Nation Magazine v. United States Department of Defense, and were included as footnotes in the paper Press Censorship and Access Restrictions During the Persian Gulf War: A First Amendment Analysis by Michelle D. Boydston, published in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Volume 25, Number 3 (1992) (pp 1084-1086).

I have reproduced the relevant text below:


News media personnel must carry and support any personal and professional gear they take with them, including protective cases for professional equipment, batteries, cables, converters, etc.

Night Operations-Light discipline restrictions will be followed. The only approved light source is a flashlight with a red lens. No visible light source, including flash or television lights, will be used when operating with forces at night unless specifically approved by the on-scene commander.

Because of host-nation requirements, you must stay with your public affairs escort while on Saudi bases. At other U.S. tactical or field locations and encampments, a public affairs escort may be required because of security, safety, and mission requirements as determined by the host commander.

Casualty information, because of concern of the notification of the next of kin, is extremely sensitive. By executive directive, next of kin of all military fatalities must be notified in person by a uniformed member of the appropriate service. There have been instances in which the next of kin have first learned of the death or wounding of a loved one through the news media. The problem is particularly difficult for visual media. Casualty photographs showing a recognizable face, name tag, or other identifying feature or item should not be used before the next of kin have been notified. The anguish that sudden recognition at home can cause far outweighs the news value of the photograph, film or videotape. News coverage of casualties in medical centers will be in strict compliance with the instructions of doctors and medical officials.

To the extent that individuals in the news media seek access to the U.S. area of operation, the following rule applies: Prior to or upon commencement of hostilities, media pools will be established to provide initial combat coverage of U.S. forces. U.S. news media personnel present in Saudi Arabia will be given the opportunity to join CENTCOM media pools, providing they agree to pool their products. News media personnel who are not members of the official CENTCOM media pools will not be permitted into forward areas. Reporters are strongly discouraged from attempting to link up on their own with combat units. U.S. commanders will maintain extremely tight security throughout the operational area and will exclude from the area of operation all unauthorized individuals.

For news media personnel participating in designated CENTCOM Media Pools:

(1) Upon registering with the JIB [Joint Information Bureau], news media should contact their respective pool coordinator for an explanation of pool operations.

(2) In the event of hostilities, pool products will be the [sic] subject to review before release to determine if they contain sensitive information about military plans, capabilities, operations, or vulnerabilities (see attached ground rules) that would jeopardize the outcome of an operation or the safety of U.S. or coalition forces. Material will be examined solely for its conformance to the attached ground rules, not for its potential to express criticism or cause embarrassment. The public affairs escort officer on scene will review pool reports, discuss ground rule problems with the reporter, and in the limited circumstances when no agreement can be reached with a reporter about disputed materials, immediately send the disputed material to JIB Dhahran for review by JIB Director and the appropriate news media representative. If no agreement can be reached, the issue will be immediately forwarded to OASD(PA) for review with the appropriate bureau chief. The ultimate decision on publication will be made by the originating reporter's news organization.

(3) Correspondents may not carry a personal weapon.


The following information should not be reported because its publication or broadcast could jeopardize operations and endanger lives:

(1) For U.S. or coalition units, specific numerical information on troop strength, aircraft, weapon systems, on-hand equipment, or supplies (e.g. artillery, tanks, radars, missiles, trucks, water), including amounts of ammunition or fuel moved by support units or on hand combat units. Unit size may be described in general terms such as "company-size," "multi-battalion," "multi-division," "naval task force," and "carrier battle group." Number or amount of equipment and supplies may be described in general terms such as "large," "small," or "many."

(2) Any information that reveals details of future plans, operations, or strikes, including postponed or canceled operations.

(3) Information, photography, and imagery that would reveal the specific location of military forces or show the level of security at military installations or en- campments. Locations may be described as follows: all Navy embark stories can identify the ship upon which embarked as a dateline and will state that the report is coming from the "Persian Gulf," "Red Sea," or "North Arabian Sea." Stories written in Saudi Arabia may be datelined "Eastern Saudi Arabia," "Near Kuwaiti border," etc. For specific countries outside Saudi Arabia, stories will state that the report is coming from the Persian Gulf region unless that country has acknowledged its participation.

(4) Rules of engagement details.

(5) Information on intelligence collection activities, including targets, methods, and results.

(6) During an operation, specific information on friendly force troop movements, tactical deployments, and dispositions that would jeopardize operational security and lives. This would include unit designations, names of operations, and size of friendly forces involved, until released by CENTCOM.

(7) Identification of mission aircraft points of origin, other than as land or carrier-based.

(8) Information on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of enemy camouflage, cover, deception, targeting, direct and indirect fire, intelligence collection, or security measures.

(9) Specific identifying information on missing or downed aircraft or ships while search and rescue operations are planned or underway.

(10) Special operations forces' methods, unique equipment or tactics.

(11) Specific operating methods and tactics (e.g., air ops angles of attack or speeds, or naval tactics and evasive maneuvers). General terms such as "low" or "fast" may be used.

(12) Information on operational or support vulnerabilities that could be used against U.S. forces, such as details of major battle damage or major personnel losses of specific U.S. or coalition units, until that information no longer provides tactical advantage to the enemy and is, therefore, released by CENTCOM. Damage and casualties may be described as "light, .... moderate," or "heavy."


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