Media Spin and the Australians in Afghanistan


Categorie: Afghanistan, Andrew Balcombe, Reporters, The Netherlands |
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Ben Roberts-Smith, on right.

Ben Roberts-Smith, on right.


“Even heroes have their heroes,” The Australian reports:

For Victoria Cross-holder Ben Roberts-Smith, the benchmark for valor was set by his mate Sergeant Locke.

The Special Air Service Regiment corporal says Locke’s courage probably saved his life and stopped a heavily outnumbered Australian patrol being overrun on a mountain top in Afghanistan late one afternoon in 2006.

“He was a very, very brave person, Matt, in every sense of the word,” Roberts-Smith says.

I was slightly surprised by this story about SASR trooper Ben Roberts-Smith and his service in Uruzgan, southern Afghanistan. Roberts-Smith distinguished himself in combat and received Australia’s highest reward for gallantry, the Victoria Cross, in 2010.

I was surprised, that is, to read anything at all about Australians in Afghanistan.

To say the Australian Defense Force is a hard nut to crack for the media is an understatement. I frequently talked to Dutch reporters who were embedded with Dutch troops on operations with Aussies in Uruzgan. Whenever the Australians were involved, a media black-out was imposed on them.

One reporter told me he just didn’t understand it. “Don’t they want the public to know what their troops are going through?’ he said.

Most Australians are behind the Afghanistan mission. Both political parties are behind it, too. All the same, negative stories are not something the ADF and those in political power are willing to risk.

I felt the strong hand of the ADF a year ago, when the Dutch were still deployed in Uruzgan. I arranged to go on an embed with them. I said I wanted to cover the cooperation between Dutch and Australian troops. Everything was organized — or so I thought.

When, a month later, I hadn’t heard back from the Dutch military, I started making some calls. I heard that my trip was off and I was now so far down the list, it was clear I wasn’t ever going.

A few weeks later the rumor floated around that the ADF had canned my embed when they heard I wanted to cover their activities too. “We don’t want him jumping the fence,” they said.

So, a hard nut to crack, yes — unless the story is one they want to be told. Roberts-Smith’s story is clearly one the ever-vigilant ADF PR hawks wanted to be told.


3 Responses to “Media Spin and the Australians in Afghanistan”

  1. ELP says:

    “Most Australians are behind the Afghanistan mission.”


    To borrow that saying about the USMC and the U.S….

    The ADF is in Afghanistan. Australians are at the mall.

    But yes both political parties support the mission, just that they are too stupid to know otherwise.Interesting because 911 was caused by poor U.S. visa control and poor airport/airline security.

    The Afghanistan mission provides no security for Australia.

  2. Prestwick says:

    I’d say that a VC winner got so much attention in such an unreported war for Australia because for the UK and Commonwealth it is such a big deal period and as such tends to be seen by the public in a diffrrent bracket to the conflict itself.

    If you remember Pvt. Beharry VC the Iraq war VC winner the Iraq war was seen in a very negative light before and after the announcement but many Britons had a huge amount of respect for Beharry because he won one of the hardest prizes in the world to get.

    So thus they tend to have a seperate category for VC winners because they are so rare and such a big deal to the general public.

  3. Chris says:

    The interesting thing about the ADF’s attempt to suppress the media is that only the bad stories make it through including a retarded attack that killed five civilians and about six billion sex scandals.

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