Moral Outrage
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U.S. pays Afghan media to run friendly and favorable stories

Buried among the 92,000 classified documents released Sunday by WikiLeaks is some intriguing evidence that the U.S. military in Afghanistan paid local media outlets to run friendly stories.

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.

Such close collaboration between local media and U.S. forces has been a headache for the Pentagon in the past: In 2005, Pentagon contractor the Lincoln Group was caught paying Iraqi newspapers to run stories written by American soldiers, causing the United States considerable embarrassment.

Messages seem to show U.S. soldiers referring to local Afghan media as extensions of their own units rather than independent reporters. In 2007, after insurgents attacked an Afghan National Police convoy, a member of Task Force Rock wrote that “we … had our journalist conduct an interview with the Afghan National Police District Chief who condemned the attacks on their fellow countrymen.” In another 2007 message, a Task Force Diablo soldier reported that after Taliban gunmen assassinated a local businessman, leading village elders to question the Afghan police’s ability to keep the peace, “we were able to send the journalist in with our cultural advisor to speak to the elders.”

A Defense Department spokesperson did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

[Yahoo! News]

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