The military and media in Afghanistan
A CTV war correspondent says the Canadian
public is more concerned for the Canadian soldiers’ welfare
than the progress of the mission in Afghanistan.
Panellists at the Robert Gill Theatre on the campus of the University
of Toronto recently debated public perception of Canada’s military
role in Afghanistan. Lisa LaFlamme, a CTV reporter who has spent
the last five years covering Canada’s military efforts in Afghanistan,
believes that Canadian citizens pay greatest attention to the human
interest aspect in the mission.
“Journalists working in Afghanistan have been accused of concentrating
only on the body bag count and not on the reconstruction efforts
of the Canadian forces,” LaFlamme said.
“It is such a flashpoint issue for Canadians, how the media
covers Canada’s role in Afghanistan and what the public actually
absorbs of what we are able to tell them.”
LaFlamme said there is limited accessibility in a war zone. “There
are rules in Afghanistan of what we are allowed and not allowed
to report in Afghanistan,” she said.
“At the Kandahar airfield base, journalists are immediately
required to sign a stack of documents of what we are allowed to
cover.” She added there is a long list of non-releasable information
and strict security surrounding the combat operations and most relief
Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie has served in the Canadian army in Afghanistan
since 2003. He acknowledges that stories of rebuilding in Afghanistan
are overshadowed by those of death and destruction, but he argued
that it’s the journalist’s choice.
“The media can choose what they want to cover,” he said.
“We don’t shake them to go towards the combat missions
or the reconstruction efforts. Instead we try to present a menu.”
According to an Ipsos Reid poll released this week, 33 per cent
of Canadians say the media present a negative view of Canadian military
efforts in Afghanistan because they’re against the mission.
It also said that only 14 per cent say the media slants coverage
positively because they’re in favour of the mission.
LaFlamme also noted that 56 per cent of Canadians surveyed in the
Ipsos Reid poll also believe they are seeing more coverage about
the combat element in Afghanistan than the rebuilding efforts.
Following the release of the polls, John Wright, senior vice-president
for Ipsos-Reid said that a majority of Canadians still support the
troops in Afghanistan. He says that both the media and the military
are responsible for painting a vague picture of the war in Afghanistan,
causing Canadian citizens to be focused on other issues closer to
“There are more people protesting on Parliament Hill against
agricultural circumstances in this country then those protesting
against the war,” Wright said.
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