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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Britain bars ITV embedded reporters

Britain's Defense Ministry has barred the country's largest commercial news broadcaster from reporting alongside the nation's troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in a dispute over the network's coverage of wounded soldiers, a ministry official said Tuesday.

The ministry accused ITV News of inaccurate and intrusive reporting in a series of broadcasts last week that documented the treatment provided to injured troops returning from combat.

Several of the reports were critical of the standards of hospital care offered to the injured and of the treatment of soldiers who said they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Employees for the network will not be allowed to join British military units on embed programs — where journalists report alongside troops in battle zones — until the dispute is resolved, said a Defense Ministry spokesman speaking on condition of anonymity under civil service restrictions.

"The ministry is concerned about inaccuracies in some of the reporting and concerns that images of wounded soldiers were shown without seeking the permission of the individuals concerned," the spokesman said.

Executives from ITV News have called on a key adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell, to intervene.

"We are in correspondence with the Ministry of Defense about the issues and are seeking clarification about what restrictions have been placed on our reporters. However, we stand by our stories," ITV News Editor in Chief David Mannion told The Associated Press.

Defense officials say some of the injured soldiers could be identified in the program and that the footage could have caused distress to their families.

In a letter sent to ITV News, the ministry warned it will consider taking the case to broadcasting regulators and is assessing the potential for legal action over an alleged invasion of privacy of one injured soldier.

"You should be under no illusions about the level of anger that exists as a result of items you carried on your programs," said the ministry spokesman, reading from the letter.

He said ITV News would not be prevented from interviewing British military officials in London or abroad, but confirmed the organization would not be able to embed reporters.
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