Journalists covering wars or other conflicts for the New York Times are no longer allowed to carry a firearm while on assignment, according to a policy adopted by the company this week.
The new policy, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was apparently put into place Wednesday following an internal debate over the issue. A Times reporter in Iraq, Dexter Filkins, was found carrying a gun last year, the Journal reported.
\"The carrying of a weapon, for whatever reason, jeopardizes a journalist\'s status as neutral,\" Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis told CNSNews.com. \"For the same reason, it\'s also important that Times journalists do not travel with or accompany other journalists they know to be carrying weapons.\"
The policy was developed internally by senior editors in consultation with the paper\'s bureaus, Mathis said. It applies to reporters, photographers and other editorial staff \"who are on assignment from the Times to cover a war or a civil conflict,\" she said.
The debate over journalists carrying guns is not new. Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera stirred up the issue when he carried a gun while covering the war on terror in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week in Iraq, two CNN employees died from gunshot wounds when their vehicle was ambushed. A third employee in another vehicle was injured. A security adviser traveling with the convoy was credited for saving the lives of the other journalists and employees.
\"There is no doubt in my mind that if our security adviser had not returned fire, everyone in our vehicle would have been killed,\" said CNN correspondent Michael Holmes in a statement. \"This was not an attempted robbery; they were clearly trying to take us out.\"
American Enterprise Institute resident scholar John Lott, author of \"The Bias against Guns,\" said the attack on CNN workers is just one example of the threats journalists face in war zones.
\"My concern is that the New York Times is being driven more by appearance than what is actually necessary for the safety of their reporters,\" Lott said. \"It\'s not the type of image the New York Times wants to give out. They\'re very politically correct on these things, and they want to be perceived that way.\"
The Times'decision didn\'t surprise Joe Waldron, executive director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. He said, \"Hypocrisy has never bothered the New York Times.\"
The Times has long been a target of criticism for its anti-gun editorials. The paper was also accused of hypocrisy when it was discovered that its former publisher, Arthur Ochs \"Punch\" Sulzberger, had a permit to carry a handgun.
Sulzberger, whose son \"Pinch\" Sulzberger now runs the paper, was among several influential New Yorkers with handgun permits whose names were leaked to the press in 1976.