Sir Ray Tindle has decreed that none of his newspapers will attack the decision to go to war while UK troops are fighting in Iraq. Even readers’ letters doing so will be banned, writes Jean Morgan.
In a memo to his executives, managers and all editorial departments, the owner of weekly papers throughout England and Wales reminded them that the titles had no political bias.
“Our columns are free,” he wrote, but added: “When British troops come under fire, however, as now seems probable, I ask you to ensure that nothing appears in the columns of your newspaper which attacks the decision to conduct the war in which those men are involved, nor, of course, anything which attacks the troops themselves.”
Tindle said he asked this not just as proprietor of the newspapers, but as someone who served as a British soldier in the Far East from 1944 to 1947.
“I know that what our men need most at this time is the feeling of confidence that they are being backed by the ‘folks back home’ and are fighting for them,” his memo continued.
Normal newspaper practice would be resumed immediately after a ceasefire, he promised, when withheld letters could also be published. He also told editors to feel free to publish his memo.
He concluded: “I know you will ensure total support for our men while they are under fire if that happens.”