Yesterday, the Army Times reported that soldiers at Walter Reed say they have been told “they must not speak to the media.” Editor & Publisher reported subsequently that the military press crackdown was more widespread than Walter Reed, and that “many of the denials are apparently in reaction to the potential negativity of a planned story.”
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Army spokesman Paul Boyce insisted that the Army Times report is inaccurate, and that injured vets are “free to exercise their First Amendment right” and speak with the media. But upon further questioning, Boyce acknowledged that if patients at Walter Reed wanted to speak to reporters inside the hospital, they must first receive approval from the hospital’s press relations office.
What if reporters want to speak to a reporter without getting approval from a PR office? “They can go to Starbucks,” Boyce said. Asked whether this was a reasonable solution for patients recuperating from physical and mental trauma, Boyce said yes. “It’s just a short trip, and many of them want to get out [of the hospital] anyway.”
Boyce repeatedly justified the restrictions on patients’ activities by citing the fact that Walter Reed hospital is a “government building.” ThinkProgress contacted several legal analysts and none of them could explain why this would justify media restrictions.