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US may ask media to adopt code on covering terrorism

Attorney General Edwin Meese III said Wednesday the US Justice Department may ask news organizations voluntarily to delay some reporting of terrorist incidents. The government may ask US newspapers and radio and TV stations to adopt a code of restraint during such incidents as the hijacking last month of a TWA jet, Mr. Meese said at a news conference in London, where he addressed the American Bar Association convention.

The hijacking by Shiite Muslim gunmen, which ended with the release of the remaining 39 hostages in Beirut, featured regular news conferences and interviews arranged by the captors for television. There was widespread suggestion that the gunmen, who killed one passenger, had scored a propaganda coup by exploiting TV.

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Meese cited the British practice of sometimes asking news organizations not to publish details about a kidnapping or terrorist incident. US newspapers and television might be asked to ``withhold some interviews that might endanger the captives . . . or endanger the successful conclusion of the incident,'' he said.

Meese cited the 1978 siege of the Iranian Embassy in London -- which ended when British Army commandos stormed the building -- as an example of good media-police cooperation. ``The press was very careful not to do things that interfered with police operations. In return, the police gave them full information, which they were able to use later on,'' he said.

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