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Outcry as Pentagon orders shutdown of the century-old Stars and Stripes newspaper

President Trump announced Friday that the Defense Department “will NOT be cutting funding” to the military’s historic independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

Driving the news: The Pentagon had ordered the shutdown of the military’s independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, despite objections by Congress, per the AP.

  • In February, the agency proposed cutting $15.5 million in funding to the paper. But the House has since passed legislation that includes the funding through the 2021 fiscal year.

Details: A Pentagon memo, which was first quoted in an opinion piece in USA Today, ordered the newspaper’s publisher to produce a plan by Sept. 15 to “dissolve the Stars and Stripes.”

  • “The last newspaper publication (in all forms) will be September 30, 2020,” the memo’s author, Col. Paul Haverstick Jr., was quoted by USA Today as writing.

The other side: A bipartisan group of 15 senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday, urging him to reinstate funding.

  • “Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nations freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom,” the senators said.
  • The senators note that the House has already passed a bill that includes funding the the paper, and “the Senate has not yet released a defense appropriations bill, nor had an opportunity to conference with the House position, leaving it a real possibility that Congress may not agree with the proposal to eliminate this funding.”
  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Trump ally, reportedly sent a separate letter to Esper in late August, calling the paper “a valued ‘hometown newspaper’ for the members of the Armed Forces, their families, and civilian employees across the globe.”
  • Stripes ombudsman, Ernie Gates, told the AP that shutting down the paper “would be fatal interference and permanent censorship of a unique First Amendment organization that has served U.S. troops reliably for generations.”

Background: Stars and Stripes had a brief first run in 1861 during the Civil War.

  • It was revived during World War I, but was shut down when the war ended. The paper returned to print in 1942 during World War II.
  • According to the paper, it maintains bureaus “around the world including Europe, Pacific, and the Middle East to provide first-hand reporting on events.”
  • “Stars and Stripes provides independent news and information to the U.S. military community, including active-duty servicemembers, DoD civilians, veterans, contractors, and their families. Unique among Department of Defense authorized news outlets, Stars and Stripes is governed by the principles of the First Amendment,” the paper’s website reads.

The bottom line: “I read Stars and Stripes on a mountain in Afghanistan when I was a 19 year old aspiring journalist. Now I work there. This doesn’t stop the journalism. I’m juggling 3 future news stories today,” tweeted Stars and Stripes journalist Steve Beynon on Friday.

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