WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2019–The Military Reporters & Editors association expressed concern Friday about a report that a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent harassed a journalist at Dulles International Airport in Virginia the previous day.
The reporter in question is Ben Watson, who writes for Defense One, a publication that covers the U.S. military and its contractors.
According to a Defense One article on the incident, Watson was returning to the United States Thursday from an assignment in Denmark when a CBP agent at Dulles withheld the journalist’s passport until he answered to the agent’s satisfaction the question, “You write propaganda, right?”
The guard put that question to Watson at least four times after Watson had said he was a journalist in response to an initial question about his profession, according to Defense One.
Watson is a former Army public affairs officer and an award-winning combat cameraman in Afghanistan.
“The incident as reported constitutes unacceptable harassment of a journalist and military veteran,” said MRE President John M. Donnelly. “This event is troubling on its own but is especially worrisome because it adds to a pattern of CBP guards detaining, hectoring and hounding journalists at U.S. border crossings in recent months, according to news reports.”
In the last year alone, guards have reportedly delayed and badgered at least three other reporters at airports. Those incidents occurred in New York, Los Angeles and Austin.
The Defense One story on the incident indicated that the Department of Homeland Security had not replied to a request for comment.
MRE, based in Washington, D.C., is a membership organization comprised of several hundred news professionals in the national security field from across the United States.
Contact: John M. Donnelly, MRE President, 202 650 6738