OTTAWA (CP) - Canadian military officials removed four journalists accompanying troops on an Afghanistan operation earlier this year after complaints from allies, newly released documents show.
The abrupt end to the so-called embedding of the reporters, who were extracted by helicopter in early April, suggests the vaunted program is creating friction among Canada's fighting partners.
"Media embedded with Canadian troops conducting operations with coalition forces generate discomfort amongst allies," Maj. Marc Theriault, a public affairs officer in Kandahar, warned Ottawa hours before the journalists' removal.
In a later communication, he added: "Despite our explanations, most allied nations consider our media posture as very progressive and risky."
In other words, they tell the truth. That's the definition of 'progressive and risky'.
A defence official later identified the media members as Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford, photographer Louie Palu, Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno and Ontario-based freelance filmmaker Richard Fitoussi.
They were with The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battle group, which was operating with U.S. Special Forces at the time.
In an interview, Fitoussi said "it's pretty well known that Canada has the best embedding program there, and most of the NATO countries there are giving Canada a hard time about it."
Military officials in Ottawa have indicated that placating Canada's allies will always take precedence over the embedding program.
It's bad enough we have one of the most secretive, press-eschewing prime ministers ever but when our allies complain about the members of our free press reporting from a war zone because of their 'discomfort' - an extremely low standard offering no proof that our journalists are actually doing anything wrong - our right to know what's happening on the ground is in jeopardy when their requests to censor them are granted.
Overall, fortunately, we still have many media personnel who are allowed to embed with the troops but pandering to allies for no justifiable reason ought to raise a real red flag.