Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Trump orders famed US military newspaper to close

A soldier reads Star and Stripes during a lull in fighting in Korea in 1952Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

A soldier reads Star and Stripes during a lull in fighting in Korea in 1952

The Trump administration has ordered the military to cancel publication of Stars and Stripes – a newspaper which has been written by troops for decades.

The order from Pentagon officials calls for the famed military newspaper to cease all operations by 30 September.

The move has been criticised by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who are pushing to restore its funding.

It comes as US President Donald Trump denies reports that he mocked fallen US soldiers.

According to a report in The Atlantic magazine, Mr Trump cancelled a visit to a US cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because it was “filled with losers”. The president has denied the report as “made up fake news”.

The Pentagon order obtained by US media on Friday calls for Star and Stripes to be completely dissolved by the end of January 2021.

However, the US congress is still debating the Pentagon’s 2021 budget, and may still provide the $15.5m needed by Stars and Stripes to continue operations.

Mr Trump has not commented on plans to cancel the newspaper.

What is Stars and Stripes?

Stars and Stripes was started during the US Civil War in 1861 by Union troops who had seized a printing press from a Confederate sympathiser in Missouri.

After publication lapsed, it restarted during World War One. It ceased printing after that war ended before beginning again in World War Two, and has continued ever since.

The editorially independent newspaper, which often contains criticism of top military leadership and US officials, is delivered daily to US outposts around the world, including in war zones.

Image copyright
Bart-Jan Verhagen

Image caption

Jules Verhagen, a Dutch army repatriation officer at Dachau concentration camp, reading Stars and Stripes

On Wednesday, a group of 15 Democratic and Republican senators wrote to Secretary of Defence Mark Esper to oppose the Pentagon’s plan to kill off the paper.

“Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation’s freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom,” the senators wrote, asking Mr Esper to “rescind your decision” and reinstate funding.

They added that the $15.5m allocated to Stars and Stripes would have a “negligible impact” on the Defence Department’s $700bn budget.

A separate letter from South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham – a former Air Force colonel – sent to Mr Esper last month also condemned the plan.

According to the Associated Press, Mr Graham called Stars and Stripes “a valued ‘hometown newspaper’ for the members of the Armed Forces, their families, and civilian employees across the globe.”

He added that “as a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value that the Stars and Stripes brings to its readers”.

What has the publication said?

In an email to BBC News, Stars and Stripes publisher Max Lederer said the newspaper – which is also available online – generates revenue from ad sales, subscriptions and printing, but that is not enough to cover the entire budget.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

US troops in 1945 read about Adolf Hitler’s death in Stars and Stripes

“Our mission is to provide First Amendment-based content to service members around the world including places such as Afghanistan and Iraq,” Mr Lederer said, referencing the constitutional law enshrining freedom of the press.

Without financing from the defence budget “it is not possible to perform the mission”, he said.

The House of Representatives has passed a budget that approves funds for Stars and Stripes, but it has yet to be approved by the Senate.


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