Tuesday, October 24, 2006

MoD moves to censor reporting of UK casualties

By Dominic Kennedy in the Times Online

In an unprecedented move that risks accusations of censorship, the Government has withdrawn co-operation from ITV News in warzones after accusing it of inaccurate and intrusive reports about the fate of wounded soldiers.

The first casualty is ITV’s planned trip to Afghanistan to cover troops marking Remembrance Sunday, traditionally an opportunity for positive coverage of reconstruction efforts. ITV sources said last night that the trip had been cancelled because of the row with the MoD. The Times understands that the head of ITV News, David Mannion, wrote to the MoD yesterday to demand an explanation. He also sent a copy of the letter to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, a move that is likely to drag Tony Blair into the dispute.
The row began last week after ITV broadcast the first of a series of reports showing how British soldiers wounded during the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated. The segments, which appear nightly on the 6.30pm and 10.30pm bulletins, topped the agenda at a meeting between ministers, including the Defence Secretary Des Browne, and military chiefs.