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AFTRA Joins Outcry Over Allegations Of Pentagon Embed Vetting

The American Federation of Radio & Television Artists Wednesday joined the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and other groups to condemn what they say was the U.S. Military's vetting of journalists seeking military protection to cover the war in Afghanistan.

Stars & Stripes reports that PR firm, The Rendon Group, may be screening those journalists to see whether they plan to portray the military positively, saying one of its reporters was refused an embed because he would not "highlight" good news.

The paper says it has obtained documents that "prove" the Pentagon is grading coverage as positive, neutral or negative to help "manipulate the type of stories that reporters produce while embedded."

"This profiling of journalists further compromises the independence of media," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary, in a statement. "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."

"Many Americans rely on the unbiased information that journalists report to understand what is happening in the world and to make critical decisions," said AFTRA President Roberta Reardon. "If the military pre-approves only certain journalists to report a specific point-of- view or agenda, our decisions cannot be made independently or freely and that threatens our democracy. I am deeply disturbed by this assault on quality broadcast journalism and on our freedom."

A Pentagon press officer had not returned a call for comment at press time.

In a statement on its Web site, The Rendon Group says it provides media analysis as part of a 2009 contract in support of US military public affairs in Afghanistan, including, as required by the contract, a "relational analysis of news content specifically focused on themes of critical importance defined as US interests -- stability and security, counter insurgency, operational results."

But it also says it does not rank reporters, and that the information it gleans "quantifying" themes and topics "is not provided as the basis for accepting or rejecting a specific journalist's inquiries."