Editorial freedom to report is crucial

Decision-making about use of the Kenneth Bigley video footage should be an editorial one, said ITV editor-inchief David Mannion.

He argued it was “too easy to make grand statements about not playing to terrorists. These must be editorial decisions and it’s very difficult to make the right call. You are judging all the time your journalistic validation for telling people what happened, and not censoring against the desire not to be voyeuristic and gratuitous.

“It’s not about denying the terrorists the oxygen of publicity. To do that would be to make a political statement, we’re not policiticans.”

Mannion said he had put out strict guidelines to staff on 24 September about the use of video footage that were regularly updated.

“We ran what we believed was enough to make the point. There was a point in it where he (Bigley) broke down and we came out of it a second too late,” he said. “I don’t think it was a major error of judgement, I think it was right on the fringes and we certainly had no complaints about it.”

Nick Pollard, head of Sky News, said: “However much you analyse them, these end up as fairly subjective decisions and I wouldn’t criticise anyone for taking a different view to ours.

I don’t think there’s an absolute right or wrong – these are very fine editorial and moral decisions.”

Sky News decided to run that part of the video which showed Bigley’s appeal to Tony Blair, but chose not to use footage in which he broke down.

“I was comfortable with the decision we made,” said Pollard.

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