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AFTRA President Reardon Commends U.S. Plans to Cease Journalist Vetting in Afghanistan

LOS ANGELES (August 31, 2009)—Roberta Reardon, National President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, issued this statement today commending a decision by the United States Army to cease its plans to vet journalists covering the military’s operations in Afghanistan:

“We welcome the decision by the United States Army to abandon its plans to pre-screen journalists reporting the news from Afghanistan,” said Roberta Reardon, National President of AFTRA. “This is a victory, both for the individual professional journalists whose job it is to investigate and report the facts without pressure or influence from the military, and for the American public who rely on a free press and quality journalism for their news and information. We believe the military should focus on keeping journalists safe in war-torn areas rather than profiling them to ensure sympathetic reporting on its actions. Accurate, responsible and quality news coverage is critical to a free and democratic society so it is necessary that the conditions in which news is gathered also be free and democratic.”

AFTRA and the IFJ and its affiliates in the United States, including The Newspaper Guild-CWA, last week criticized a $1.5 million contract for The Rendon Group, a controversial public relations firm, hired to screen journalists applying to be embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The PR contract was first uncovered last week by the independent military newspaper Stars and Stripes, a First Amendment publication operated from inside the Department of Defense. Stars and Stripes reported Monday the U.S. Army canceled the contract 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."