VITTO BANEZ WRITES – Because of its unique, soap-box position, the media has an outsized ability to influence. But when it stops objectively calling things as it sees them, it becomes a propaganda tool for the powers that be.

Recently, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) proposed paying journalists for positive photographs of the work the U.S. does in Afghanistan. It was meant to counter negative images that Afghans sometimes get of the U.S presence, and help persuade taxpayers back at home of the continued importance of the Afghan campaign.

When a good-government watchdog group rightly complained the scheme amounted to thinly-veiled propaganda, USAID quickly pulled the plug.

The withdrawn contract brought further fire on the agency, which critics say has, among other things, poor financial safeguards for the hundreds of millions of dollars it spends each year in Afghanistan on restoration projects.

It’s clear that USAID is trying to counter the inherent negativity of fallen soldiers and possibly-wasted tax payer money. But is that its role? And should media be on the take to help spread the ‘good word’?

Less happy-time messaging, please. More talk about what has and hasn’t worked in-country and when the U.S. can finally pull out.