Sign up for weekly updates

IFJ welcomes end to US media vetting in Afghanistan

(IFJ/IFEX) - 31 August 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and United States journalists' groups today welcomed a decision by the United States army to abandon vetting of journalists covering the Afghanistan conflict to see if they are sympathetic to the American cause. The Reuters news agency has reported that the United States army is cancelling a contract with a public relations firm after coming under criticism for using the company to provide profiles of journalists and rating their reporting on the Afghanistan war according to whether it was "positive", "neutral" or "negative".

The IFJ and its affiliates in the United States, the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA) and The Newspaper Guild-CWA(TNG), last week criticised a $1.5 million contract for The Rendon Group, a controversial public relations firm, hired to screen journalists applying to be embedded with US troops in Afghanistan.

Now the contract first revealed last week in the military's own Pentagon-funded but editorially independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, is to be scrapped. The paper said the profiles included suggestions on how to "neutralise" negative stories and generate favourable coverage.

Although US commanders denied they used the profiles to discriminate against journalists, the IFJ General Secretary Aidan White roundly condemned the process saying: "It suggests the army is more interested in propaganda than honest reporting".

Welcoming the latest move, the IFJ says the army should focus on helping journalists to cover the war without further interference.

"This is a small victory for press freedom and quality journalism," said White. "It underscores the importance of avoiding any suggestion of undue influence on the way media report and it is a sound message to send in Afghanistan where the battle for democracy is not yet won."

Latest Tweet:

Turkey: Appellate court upholds convictions in 'Cumhuriyet' trial; the verdict means eight of the 14 convicted defe…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.