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US Military Ends Journalist Profiling Contract


News photographers take pictures of a German ISAF Quick Reaction Force regional command north (QRF) soldier during a drill in the Marmal mountains near the German ISAF headquarters in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, July 1, 2008. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

KABUL - The U.S. military is cancelling a
contract with a public relations firm after coming under
criticism for using the company to rate the output of
journalists reporting on the Afghanistan war.

The Rendon Group had provided profiles of journalists that
rated their output as "positive", "neutral" or "negative",
although the military said it did not use the ratings to
manipulate coverage or deny reporters access to cover the war.

"The Bagram Regional Contracting Center intends to execute
a termination of the media analyst contract ... for the
convenience of the U.S. government," military spokeswoman
Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker said.

The contract -- worth $1.5 million -- with the
Washington-based firm was first revealed last week in the
military's own Pentagon-funded but editorially independent
newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

The paper said the profiles included suggestions on how to
"neutralise" negative stories and generate favourable coverage.

The profiles had been sharply criticised by journalism
advocacy groups.

"It strips away any pretence that the army is interested in
helping journalists to work freely. It suggests they are more
interested in propaganda than honest reporting," Aidan White,
general secretary of the Brussels-based International
Federation of Journalists, said last week.

Commanders denied they used the profiles to attempt to
influence coverage, or to determine which journalists would be
allowed to accompany troops on "embedded" assignments.

(Reporting by Peter Graff; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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