KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it is canceling a $1.5 million contract with a public relations firm that assesses journalists' "style and tone."
The services of The Rendon Group, which provides dossiers on reporters who request to be embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, have been dropped by Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the top military spokesman in Afghanistan, USA Today reported Monday.
The Rendon Group's Web site says it provides the military with information on reporters, including a section on the "perspective, style and tone" of their work, which erases "the line between government review of the press and censorship," Ronald Collins of the First Amendment Center, which studies media issues, told the newspaper.
"It taxes the mind of reasonable people to think that this information was being collected for any purpose other than to weed out journalists whose accounts differ from the government's," Collins said.
But USA Today reported Rendon denies it was trying to help the military shape the news, saying on its Web site it does not characterize reporters but assesses their stories as positive or negative.