(dpa) - NATO on Wednesday launched its very own online TV news service in an attempt to regain the media initiative from local insurgents for its mission in Afghanistan.
"When it comes to video, NATO was in the Stone Age when I took up my post ... We were simply not on the field," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said while launching the service at a summit of NATO leaders in Bucharest.
"The extremist groups we face in our operations (in Afghanistan) are very quick to successfully utilize the new media platforms. We had to ensure that NATO can meet the media challenges of the 21st century," Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose government spearheaded the programme, said.
NATO currently heads the 47,000-man International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the UN-mandated body charged with restoring peace and security after the fall of the Taliban.
But the alliance has long suffered from what NATO leaders see as an outdated view of the communications world, repeatedly losing the initiative to extremist groups who report real or fictional NATO mistakes and losses in Afghanistan by video or on the web.
NATO's new strategy is to deploy mobile video teams to Afghanistan and set up the information website, www.natochannel.tv. Their mission is to report on events there in as rapid and accurate a way as possible, in order to say "what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why," De Hoop Scheffer said.
The website is available to both the general public and to media professionals, who will be allowed to download broadcast-quality TV footage from the site.
Critics say that the channel risks becoming nothing more than a propaganda organ for NATO to boost its image.
But Scheffer and Rasmussen dismissed that fear, saying that the channel would only be effective if it were demonstrably unbiased.
"It is a prerequisite for the credibility of this TV channel that it provides you with correct and accurate news," Rasmussen said.