U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Pentagon spokesman says he doesn't consider Intercept contributor a 'legitimate journalist'

Incident Details

Date of Incident
October 2017
New York, New York

Denial of Access

Government agency or public official involved
Type of denial
October 15, 2017

A spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) told independent journalist Nick Turse that he did not consider him to be a “legitimate journalist” and refused to answer his calls or emails for months starting in late 2017.

Turse has written numerous articles, many for The Intercept, critical of the U.S. military’s activities in Africa.

On July 20, 2017, he wrote an article for The Intercept revealing that Cameroonian troops tortured detainees at a military base that the United States also used for drone surveillance.

In a January 2018 piece for The Intercept, Turse wrote about how AFRICOM’s Public Affairs Branch repeatedly refused to engage with him after that article was published:

“Nick, we’re not going to respond to any of your questions” Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, the head of U.S. Africa Command’s Public Affairs Branch, told me by phone last October. “We just don’t feel that we need to.”

I asked if Falvo believed AFRICOM didn’t need to address questions from the press in general, or just me in particular.

“No, just you,” he replied. “We don’t consider you a legitimate journalist, really.”

Then he hung up on me.

How I Got Blacklisted by the Pentagon's Africa Command (The Intercept)

Turse also detailed many instances in which representatives of AFRICOM consistently stonewalled him as early as 2012. On one day in 2014, he wrote, he called Benjamin Benson, then the chief of media engagement for AFRICOM, multiple times from a phone line that identified him by name and never had his calls answered. When he tried calling from another number, Benson picked up right away, only to hang up after Turse identified himself.

Turse wrote that just before his January 2018 piece was published, an AFRICOM spokesperson began responding to some of his questions, but refused to answer any questions about the agency’s treatment of him, including “if I was now considered legitimate, why the command finally decided to respond to me, and whether AFRICOM would regularly take my calls and answer my questions in the future.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].