Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’


Cartoonists head to Afghanistan

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Cartoonists Matt Bors, Ted Rall and Steven Cloud are traveling unembedded in Afghanistan.

These cartoonists are sharp-witted and unconventional.

Following their exploits in Afghanistan should be interesting.

Here are their blog sites:

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Here we go again: US military paid Afghan journalists

This really should not be a surprise to anyone. And I was expecting this. I just read documents more slowly than others.

Leaked files indicate U.S. pays Afghan media to run friendly stories

Buried among the 92,000 classified documents released Sunday by WikiLeaks is some intriguing evidence that the U.S. military in Afghanistan has adopted a PR strategy that got it into trouble in Iraq: paying local media outlets to run friendly stories.

Several reports from Army psychological operations units and provincial reconstruction teams (also known as PRTs, civilian-military hybrids tasked with rebuilding Afghanistan) show that local Afghan radio stations were under contract to air content produced by the United States. Other reports show U.S. military personnel apparently referring to Afghan reporters as “our journalists” and directing them in how to do their jobs.

Rest of Story

When will these guys learn? And just how much did AID know about the military PSYOP?

I know of good and solid journalism programs in Africa, Central Europe and the Caribbean that could not exist without financial help from AID. These are programs that seriously train independent journalists. (One recipient even asked for copies of the SPJ Code of Ethics to use as a blueprint for their own code.)

Then these PR people move in and muck up the whole thing. How are the Afghans supposed to learn what it means to have a media independent of government control or to be free from corruption when the U.S. government is in there paying off “journalists?”

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Why did media ignore request for FOI law in Afghanistan?

First posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

With all the to-do about the International Donors Conference in Kabul this week, one item got little (dare I say, no) mention in the media reports and government statements: the need for a freedom of information law.

One of the key points of the conference was the need to reduce corruption in the Afghan government. (Let’s face it, no one expects to eliminate corruption. The best anyone could do is limit it.) In response to that call, several Afghan civil society groups and media organizations launched a campaign highlighting the need to have access to government documents. And the best way to do that is to enact a freedom of information law.

AFGHAN CIVIL SOCIETY LAUNCHES ACCESS TO INFORMATION CAMPAIGN

Too bad no one in the West reported on it.

The issue of corruption in Afghanistan is indeed serious.

According to Transparency International, Afghanistan is just one point away from being the most corrupt country in the world. Only Somalia is more corrupt — and that is a country that barely has a functioning civil society. That makes Afghanistan more corrupt than well-know spots of corruption such as Sudan, Iraq and Haiti.

So, how does one combat corruption?

The idealists and political science modelers will say: “Enact anti-corruption legislation and then enforce it.” But the very people who depend on corruption for their standard living are also the ones in charge of enforcing the law. How serious do you think they will be in enforcing the law?

What is needed is a way to shine sunlight (the best disinfectant) on government projects. And that is where an FOI law comes into play.

The Afghan civic and media groups explain the need for an FOI law succinctly:

Citizens will be able to know essential information about the provision of public services, such as land distribution and its criteria, timeframe for issuing passports or identity cards, school construction costs and electricity distribution.

Where ever FOI laws are enacted and enforced, one thing is true, more citizens and citizen groups than journalists ask for the data. It makes no difference if it is the USA or the Dominican Republic, the story is the same. Requests under the FOI laws come overwhelmingly from individuals or civic organizations rather than journalists.

And yet it is journalists who argue the loudest for freedom of information laws.

Promises to put data on the Internet — as Afghanistan has promised to do — is all well and good. IF people have access to a computer and the Internet. Posting on the Internet is not the same as having an open government and making data available to people

In Afghanistan, population 29 million, only 500,000 people have access to the Internet.

So tell me again, how posting everything on the Internet in a country where less than 2% of the population has access to that data is helpful. It reminds me of how people praise the near 100% literacy rate in Cuba, while at the same time failing to note that WHAT the people can read is severely limited by the government under pain of long jail sentences.

It is indeed a pity that so many people focused on the speeches by the big participants in the Kabul conference and all the talk of development aid while ignoring some simple basic things that Afghans are calling for to help make their own government more accountable.

Would it really have taken that much time to add the FOI message to a story about the conference?

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Public support for French captive journalists

I just got back from a vacation in Normandy and while learning about William the Conqueror, D-Day, Impressionist art and cheese making I saw a banner on a city hall that warmed my heart.

Kidnapped journalists a public cause in France

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Soldier in helicopter video speaks out/Another part of the story

A couple of days ago, Wired magazine published what seems to me the first account of a soldier on the ground following the Apache helicopter attack in 2007 that killed two Reuters journalists and a number of civilians.

U.S. Soldier on 2007 Apache Attack: What I Saw

In July 2007, [Ethan] McCord, a 33-year-old Army specialist, was engaged in a firefight with insurgents in an Iraqi suburb when his platoon, part of Bravo Company, 2-16 Infantry, got orders to investigate a nearby street. When they arrived, they found a scene of fresh carnage – the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his five-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns.

McCord left the service last year. Wired reached him in Kansas.

He makes it clear that those who said people in the video had no weapons are just wrong.
In the video, you can clearly see that they did have weapons … to the trained eye. You can make out in the video [someone] carrying an AK-47, swinging it down by his legs….

The most moving part of the interview, however, is McCord’s description of what he saw when he arrived at the scene of the shooting, the wounded families and the aftermath, including the reaction of McCord’s sergeant.

When McCord said the injuries to the children caught in the attack affected him and he wanted to see a mental health professional.

I was called a pussy and that I needed to suck it up and a lot of other horrible things. I was also told that there would be repercussions if I was to go to mental health.

Later that same night the sergeant told McCord the children would survive.

I didn’t know if he was telling me that just to get me to shut up and to do my job or if he really found something out. I always questioned it in the back of my mind.

I raise this because reaction of the sergeant goes against what the Pentagon mandates.

I get the Armed Forces Network here in Brazil. AFN shows current television programs (including all the news programs). Instead of having commercials about soap and cars, the breaks are filled with PSAs from the services. One of the most common themes in these PSAs is the need — the importance — of getting proper mental treatment.

And the reasoning behind those ads is clear: Last year 334 members of the US military committed suicide. Compare that to the 297 who died in action in Afghanistan and the 150 killed in Iraq and one can see what is greater threat to the troops.

There have been occasional stories about the toll service in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking on our military. Yet, it strikes me that there have not been enough. (GBT seems to be doing a pretty good job with his series the past couple of weeks.)

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Reminder: Journalism can be a dangerous job

Back in December Taliban militants kidnapped two French journalist. The group now says it will kill the journalists unless their demands are met.

Taliban militants threaten to kill kidnapped French journalists

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Kidnapped journalists still alive, video released 2/14

Reuters is reporting that the two French journalists who were kidnapped in Afghanistan Dec. 30 are alive.

The Taliban kidnappers released the video of the journalists urging the French government to move faster in its negotiations with the Taliban.

The two journalists, along with their Afghan driver and translator, were seized in Kapisa province on December 30 while working on a story for France 3 television. The driver was later freed.

It had been unclear until Sunday who exactly had kidnapped the journalists, since abduction has become a lucrative business for both Afghan militants and purely criminal groups.

France 3 has asked that the two men not be named. They said they were healthy in the video, first obtained by Reuters.

“I have no idea what is happening. We have been given no information but I hope the negotiations are making progress,” one said. “Although we are being treated well, we feel the weight of the passing days and weeks.”

Rest of story

Cross posted with Journalism, Journalists and the World.

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Michelle Lang becomes first Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan.

Thanks to Andrew Michael Seaman, Student Representative on the SPJ board, for bringing many of these links to our attention.

Michelle Lang, a journalist from Canada’s Calgary Herald, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan December 30. She was the first Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan.

Her death, according to CPJ, took the 2009 death toll to 20 for journalists in Afghanistan.

Lang’s death occurred the same day two French journalists and their Afghan staff were kidnapped.

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Heads up: Journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan, official says

CNN and other news outlets report two French journalists and an Afghan translator have been kidnapped on their way to the Kapisa province.

Journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan, official says

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports 20 journalists were killed in Afghanistan since 1992. A Canadian journalist was killed Dec. 30, taking the number of journalists killed since 9/11 to 17 20.

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From Guantánamo to Desk at Al Jazeera – NYT

Good story about a journalist who was held in Gitmo. (From Guantánamo to Desk at Al Jazeera)

This story is interesting to me on a number of level.

  1. Despite being held and tortured Hajj never lost faith that the fairness of the U.S. judicial system would provide justice for him.
  2. The view that Al Jazeera is a propaganda arm for bin Laden is prevalent among the U.S. interrogators.

More discussion at Journalism, Journalists and the World

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