Much glorious Afghan victory has been won by ADF
It’s hard to know whether those handling media for the Australian Defence Force are as clueless as they seem or are now openly trying to bait the Australian media.
Yesterday there were a couple of press releases sent out from the ADF. The first was helpfully entitled: News Stories from Afghanistan – Three news stories for broadcast/publication.
Doing their favourite PLA impression, the ADF has in fact provided three media releases on Australia’s operation in Afghanistan labelled “news stories” and penned from within the organisation.
That the Defence Force would call these media releases news stories, complete with pictures, is pretty insulting in the first instance.
Publishing prepared news stories from the army is what they do in places like, oh I dunno, China and Burma.
Check out some great stories, they’re reminiscent of the kind of stuff satarical newspaper The Onion ran in the genius Yu Wan Mei edition, except the scary thing is they’re real and we’re doing it.
We’re not sure who’s hailing it a huge success but we can all sleep well tonight.
But it was the second media release by the ADF yesterday which just underscored the absurdity of the first. Late in the afternoon (it’s always late) came this press release mumbling the bad news under its breath:
AFGHAN SOLDIER AND TWO AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS WOUNDED BY IED
An Afghan National Army soldier has been badly wounded and two Australian soldiers suffered non life threatening wounds, when an IED detonated close to their partnered patrol in southern Afghanistan on 12 October 2009.
The entire release was four sentences long. This, remember, is the news of actual casualties of our soldiers and Afghan allies in the glorious Operation Slipper. We’re given four sentences and no more information because “operations are continuing”. This is standard practice for the ADF.
Monday’s attack followed an incident in which five Australian troops were injured in a similar roadside bombing this month, with another soldier inured on the weekend in a firefight with the Taliban.
This comes on the back of increasing disquiet within the media over how they’re treated in Afghanistan.
News Limited journalist Ian McPhedran recently returned from an “embedding” trip in Afghanistan. This intended to be a departure from past practice of taking the media around on “bus trips” to report from areas where Australian soldiers were building hospitals and other acts of kindness.
In this piece for the Australian McPhedran reported on a range of techniques the ADF used to frustrate what was supposed to be an open embed of the type the US and the UK regularly allow media on.
McPhedran was accompanied by photographer Gary Ramage who in a photo essay for The Punch pointed out that the level of access given to him during his embed with US army compared to the ADF was an embarrassment for our military.
ABC’s Media Watch also did a special on this issue a couple of weeks ago.
The army claims that it is the journalists welfare which is its main concern, but both US and UK forces manage these embeds safely enough and furthermore journalists who do these embeds have to accept there is a risk they can be injured or killed while doing them.
Talking to a Defence Media spokesperson The Punch was told the “news stories” initiative was countering criticism about not providing good news stories and was being now attempting to be “proactive”.
The focus of criticism of the ADF has not been on their inability to create good news stories, quite the opposite, it’s being criticised for not giving the media access to anything that isn’t an organised PR exercise.
Both the ADF and the Government should realise that limiting the media’s -and by extension the public’s - access to the war in Afghanistan does not encourage support, it encourages skepticism and from that grows outright opposition.
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