Embedded media urged to reject war medal

Iraq Medal: ‘It would not be right to accept’

A number of high-profile journalists who covered the war in Iraq are urging colleagues who were embedded with the British armed forces to snub a Ministry of Defence plan to award them medals.

They claim accepting a medal will bring journalists’ integrity and impartiality into question, particularly as the reasons behind the decision to wage war remain contentious.

The MoD announced plans on Monday to confer the “Iraq Medal”, which it says “recognises service in and in support of, operations in Iraq”.

An MoD statement said: “Members of Britain’s armed forces, UK civilians, including embedded media, and certain foreign nationals assigned to the operation, are eligible for the medal.”

Defence minister Adam Ingram said in the statement the medal recognised “the collective bravery and achievements of the military and civilian personnel who risked so much to remove Saddam Hussain’s oppressive regime. I am sure that the recipients of the medal will wear it with pride.”

But the BBC world affairs editor, John Simpson, said that to accept a medal “was akin to saying ‘Yes, I’m entirely happy and have no anxiety with the war and as a member of the press you have my backing’.

It just would not be right to accept a medal.

“Because I accepted a CBE in 1991 [after the Gulf War], it’s difficult to say it’s outrageous to accept a medal, but only an unreflective and thoughtless journalist would say ‘yes please’. Anyone with any decency would think long and hard about it.”

ITV News presenter Mark Austin added that a journalist’s bid to be seen as impartial would be compromised if they accepted a medal.

David Mannion, the recently appointed editor-inchief of the ITV News Group, said: “A medal says ‘thank you very much for going over to bring that brutal regime to an end’. But that’s not what we went for. I couldn’t possibly ask a journalist not to accept a medal, but I don’t think they should.”

An ITV News reporter who was embedded, but wished to remain anonymous, said: “There are a hell of a lot of better things you could do with the money.

Wouldn’t it be better to give the money to the families of the people we killed – on either side?”

By Wale Azeez

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