POLITICS

PMO pulls Iraq, Kuwait videos from website after military faces shown

05/05/2015 07:39 EDT | Updated 05/05/2016 05:59 EDT
The Prime Minister's Office has removed two videos from its own website over fears they may have broken the ground rules laid out by the military during Stephen Harper's visit to Iraq and Kuwait.

The videos were shot in Iraq and Kuwait by 24/7, the prime minister's in-house media team, which specializes in producing flattering features about Harper and his government.

One video is an interview with Defence Minister Jason Kenney shot after Harper's speech to Canadian military personnel based in Kuwait. The second is of Harper's trip to the front lines in Northern Iraq.

Visible around PM

In the Kenney interview, Canadian air crew can be clearly seen in the background.

In the video of Harper, Canadian Special Operations soldiers are visible around the prime minister — this despite the fact that media travelling with Harper were given strict warnings not to photograph the faces of any military personnel.

The Canadian military required journalists sign an agreement to that effect upon their arrival in Kuwait. Journalists were repeatedly warned if they showed the faces of military members, they could expose those members or their families to retaliation by the militant group ISIS, the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

When officials from the PMO were asked why Harper's own media team appeared to be ignoring those rules, the videos were quickly pulled from the prime minister's website. A government spokesperson later said the military approved the images shot by 24/7 before they were posted. When concerns were raised about the videos, they were removed "out of an abundance of caution."

The spokesperson added that the intention was to put them back up on the prime minister's website.

Cloaked in secrecy

Harper's visit to Iraq and Kuwait was cloaked in secrecy. Media were not allowed to reveal the prime minister was even going to Iraq until well after he landed. Journalists on the trip were warned not to include details of any upcoming events in their reporting or any information that might reveal the prime minister's exact location.

Harper's events in Iraq and Kuwait were carefully orchestrated. In Kuwait, the prime minister spoke to military personnel in front of a huge Canadian flag and two CF-18 fighter jets.

In Erbil, in Northern Iraq, he was given a closely guarded tour of a Kurdish Peshmerga position about seven kilometres from the front line with ISIS.

Each of the events was captured on camera by 24/7 and posted online in short packages that resemble legitimate television news stories but are, in fact, partisan campaign-style promotional videos.