A Burt's Eye View: A valid reason for missing a scoop

PUBLISHED: 11:20 23 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:40 06 May 2010

Defence Secretary John Reid

Defence Secretary John Reid

North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt continues his occasional series of articles looking at aspects of local life AT A TIME when there has been much discussion on the right of newspapers to publish cartoons which have caused offence to Muslims, the i

North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt continues his occasional series of articles looking at aspects of local life

AT A TIME when there has been much discussion on the right of newspapers to publish cartoons which have caused offence to Muslims, the inflammatory dangers of publishing stills and video clips of alleged ill treatment of young Iraqi's by British soldiers need consideration too.

What is the responsibility of the media when they come across the sort of video evidence we have seen recently? Not to draw it to the attention of the MoD would have been wrong. Whatever the circumstances of the incident, it is right that the video is investigated by the Army.

But does a national newspaper need to publish the pictures and film?

No newspaper can be unaware of what would be made of such graphic shots. They would travel around the world quickly, and be used by those who would waste little time in explaining to their audiences about the attacks the troops were enduring immediately beforehand. Their fatal impact on impressionable and volatile crowds can be easily imagined.

I feel it of the utmost importance to hold our Government to account. But on this occasion I think Defence Secretary John Reid is right to ask editors to consider carefully the impact of their stories on the day-to-day lives of our soldiers. I think our forces in Basra have been placed more at risk by the publication. I think those about to go into Afghanistan will suffer for them too.

Just because there is division about the political decision to commit forces to Iraq, there should be no doubt about our support for their brave efforts there, nor lack of understanding for what they are facing. There are other, more discreet, ways of fulfilling a public obligation for our newspapers; I believe that would have been worth missing a scoop.

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