11 Apr 2007

PR# 2007-297

ISAF releases findings on media
interference in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The International Security Assistance Force has concluded its investigation into the allegations of interference by an ISAF soldier with members of the media following the March 4 incident where several civilians were killed following a suicide vehicle bombing in the vicinity of Bari Kot district, Nangarhar province.

“ISAF has conducted a comprehensive investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding these allegations,” said Army Lt. Col. David Accetta, Regional Command – East spokesman.

This investigation consisted of interviews with the soldiers who responded to the scene, interpreters in support of ISAF Forces, and journalists responding to the scene.

“Though the investigation remains classified, what is clear from the investigation is that the deletion of any film media by ISAF Forces was an isolated event by one soldier, who was working to ensure the protection of the SVBIED site for security, force protection and investigational purposes,” Accetta said.

Upon arriving at the scene of the attack, ISAF Forces from Regional Command - East established a perimeter designed to provide security, protect investigative integrity and to ensure mission accomplishment, Accetta said. 

The investigation found that in two separate instances a journalist breached this security perimeter. 

“The first time the journalist breached the perimeter an ISAF soldier either made this particular journalist delete the photographs he had taken or deleted the photographs for the journalist,” Accetta said.  “The second time the journalist breached the security perimeter he did so with a videographer accompanying him.  Our investigation showed that the same soldier made this videographer delete his captured images.” 

“The investigation also found that when a senior non-commissioned officer noticed that the soldier had confiscated equipment and deleted images, he directed that the cameras be returned to the journalist and videographer,” Accetta said.

The two journalists were then escorted outside the security perimeter where they were permitted to return to their work, he said.

ISAF Forces have the authority to use the minimum force necessary to accomplish a required mission. 

“In this case, the soldier reasonably believed that the restoration of the security cordon and the deletion of the photographs were necessary,” Accetta said.

“In an effort to ensure ISAF Forces in RC-East have a developed understanding of the international and national media’s right to investigate and report on terrorist incidents, RC-East will host a series of media conferences designed to ensure seamless cooperation between U.S. Forces and journalists,” Accetta said.

“RC-East has also directed mandatory training for all its forces on interacting with the media and ensuring a professional relationship is developed and maintained,” Accetta added.

The RC-East investigation did not investigate the events underlying the detonation of the SVBIED nor the actions of the forces at the attack.  These events were investigated by the Special Operations Command Central and will be the subject of a separate media release by that headquarters. 

Editor’s Note:  Contact the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command for any questions about the SVBIED investigation or the actions of the forces involved in the attack.  The Point of Contact for CFSOCC Public Information Office is Army Lt. Col. Lou Leto at 001-813-841-0630 or Lleto@soccent.centcom.mil.

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/