United Nations – When it comes to reporting on nuclear arms, the U.S. news media let readers and viewers down, giving them only part of the story, former news anchor Walter Cronkite said Wednesday.
The celebrated CBS retiree, joining in a panel discussion on the sidelines of a U.N. conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said narrow reporting means the U.S. public is “largely unaware” that the 1970 treaty obliges their government to move toward full nuclear disarmament.
“There’s been a lot in the news about nonproliferation,” Cronkite said, referring to Iran and North Korea, whose nuclear programs, under fire from the U.S. government, make daily headlines.
“But, unfortunately, the nuclear disarmament obligations of the nuclear weapons states receive far less attention in news reporting, at least in our United States,” he said.
Another panelist, Marian Hobbs, New Zealand’s minister for disarmament, also criticized media coverage of arms control.
“We need the media. We want a media that informs us of other people’s opinions, not just American opinion, or your country’s opinion,” she told the international audience.
Under the nonproliferation treaty, more than 180 countries commit to not pursuing nuclear arms, in exchange for a commitment by five nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — to negotiate toward nuclear disarmament.
North Korea has announced its withdrawal from the pact and says it has built nuclear weapons. Washington contends Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is meant to produce electricity, is a cover for plans to build weapons.
Nonweapons states, on the other hand, complain increasingly that U.S. actions, such as talk of building new nuclear arms, run counter to treaty obligations.
“It simply seems the United States and other nuclear weapons states are actually trying to evade their obligations and responsibilities under the treaty,” he said, adding that he visited Hiroshima after the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of that Japanese city and since then has been “a campaigner to get rid of every nuclear weapon.”
Walter Cronkite is an eminent broadcast journalist and recipient of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2004 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.