British military reaffirms pledge never to attack journalists
October 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Following protests by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) the British Ministry of Defence has reaffirmed its long-standing pledge that UK forces would never knowingly target journalists in the field in wartime.
The latest draft of the MOD Green Book governing media-military operations in conflict had deleted from its safety section a critical sentence that said, “It is important to understand that UK forces on operations will never deliberately target individual correspondents.”
When the draft first appeared in mid-year, INSI immediately challenged the omission. The protest was joined by several INSI member news organisations and was strongly supported by prominent Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Don Foster, who took up the issue directly with the Ministry.
In a letter to Foster dated 21 September, Mark Francois, Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, referred to INSI’s response to the draft and said: “I can confirm that the final version of the Green Book v8 will contain this specified sentence. Therefore I can confirm that the sentence that was removed during initial drafting has now been reinserted into the document and will appear in the MOD Green Book v8 when it is formally published.”
INSI led a team of representatives of major news organisations that in 2008 persuaded the Ministry to include journalist safety in its Green Book for the first time. This was a significant breakthrough and it put the British armed forces at the forefront of media safety measures in war. As far as is known, no other major military has made a similar pledge in writing in its operational “bible”.
Significant numbers of journalists are caught up in warfare or peace time conflict and are not duly protected by the nations that they serve.
“We welcome the change of mind by the Ministry – reason and right have prevailed,” said INSI Director Rodney Pinder.
“Some took the view that the statement was so obvious it didn’t need to be said out loud, but what they failed to see was that its removal would have sent an entirely negative message. Journalists on the battlefield with UK forces would have wondered what was behind the change and would understandably have doubts about their safety.
“I am delighted the UK military has listened to our fears and has resumed its place at the forefront of journalist safety measures.”