NATO Issues Strict Rules For Afghan News Coverage

NATO is imposing strict new restrictions on foreign journalists covering the war in southern Afghanistan. The new rules could very well affect the news that the Canadian people will now be getting from Kandahar.
The new rules have been in place since early March. The enforcement of the rules by the US military is very much like what is in place for reporters covering the news in Iraq.

It is now impossible for Canadian journalists to leave Kandahar Airfield without an escort and then return safely to NATO’s principle base.

Canadian soldiers are required to escort newly arrived journalists everywhere on the airfield. That includes the military going into the showers with reporters.

Some journalists have been confined to sleeping quarters when they are not working.

This measure has been temporarily suspended under pressure from the Canadian military. The military has tried to have the policy reversed.

The Toronto Star reports:

“The media is not the enemy and this is a form of censorship – and it is unacceptable,” Liberal MP Denis Coderre said Tuesday.

“There is a public interest to know what’s going on in the field.”

The Canadian Association Journalists have called on the Harper government to put pressure on the Pentagon to reverse this policy.

The Star reports:

“It sounds like the more control they have over journalists, where they go, who they talk to, they’ll be able to shape the story in a much effective way,” she said.

“That ultimately is not effective for Canadians’ understanding of what’s really going on.”

Some of the same rules do not apply to journalists from the United States. Those rules are a violation of their rights under the United States constitution. One of the differences is that Canadian reporters are also compelled to forfeit their passports to the military for the duration of their stay.

The new measures appear to affect Canadian news organizations the most. Other NATO countries have sent groups of reporters through Kandahar for short-term assignments.

Reporters have noted that an informal reason for the new guidelines is that some U.S. private contractors have been accused of stealing.

The new rules require Canadian journalists be given a full federal government security screening, involving background checks to be granted accreditation.

This new mandate comes just as Washington is about to booster the troops with an additional 21,000 combat soldiers and trainers.

The U.S. security team at Kandahar Airfield has stopped issuing International Security Assistance Force accreditation since February. Now journalists are only given base visitor passes. These passes restrict movements and require those with the passes to be closely monitored.

Some of the stories that Canadian journalists in the past covered had to do with the allegations of torture among Taliban prisoners and the lives of refugees who have been left homeless after bombing raids.

Canadian troops in Kandahar are stationed at the air field also.

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