19 October 2001



October 18, 2001

Group Critical of U.S. Satellite Pact

Filed at 11:11 p.m. ET

A media advocacy group on Thursday criticized the U.S. military for buying exclusive rights to commercial satellite imagery of Afghanistan and said the move amounts to censorship because it blocks media access to views of the war zone.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders urged Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to revoke a deal that gives the U.S. military sole access to pictures taken by Ikonos -- considered the most efficient civilian satellite -- that display the area involved in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Pentagon duty officer could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday night.

``This contract, effective since the first day of U.S. military strikes on Afghanistan, is a way of disguised censorship aimed at preventing the media from doing their monitoring job,'' Reporters Without Borders director Robert Menard said in a statement.

Though there are other imagery satellites with pictures for sale, Ikonos pictures are considered the best available to civilians.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press