Embeds fear over 'most assignment'

Journalists
covering the elections in Iraq have been embedded with British troops
for their own safety rather than to report on military activity.

A
group of 70 UK broadcast and newspaper journalists and international
and Iraqi journalists based in London were flown out to Iraq last week
by the RAF. They have been placed with different military units across
the country.

Editors have described the election as one of the most dangerous assignments their journalists have had to cover.

Death threats and risk of kidnapping mean journalists have been restricted in carrying out their work.

Some
journalists have expressed concern that although the embed system
affords them a level of security, it could prevent correspondents from
gaining an impartial view of events.

The BBC’s Ben Brown, who is
embedded with British troops in Basra, said: “In terms of reporting,
this arrangement is far from perfect. You are compromised in what you
can do when you have a group of soldiers surrounding you. I’m hoping
that we’ll be in reasonably small groups and will have access to the
citizens and be able to talk to them about daily life and who they are
voting for. But it is so incredibly dangerous now that I wouldn’t have
felt happy about going without military protection.”

Inside Iraq
it is becoming increasingly difficult to travel anywhere and in the
run-up to voting, the Iraqi Government is curtailing traffic. On 30
January all unauthorised traffic will be banned.

Alan Philps,
foreign editor at The Daily Telegraph, said: “You could argue that it
is becoming so hard to operate that it is not worth having a
correspondent there just for the date line. However, at the moment our
correspondent in Baghdad is still able to report.”

The Independent ‘s Robert Fisk has been critical of what he and others have described as “hotel journalism”

with journalists not moving from the relative safety of hotels and houses in Baghdad.

But
Tim Marshall, foreign affairs editor for Sky News, based in Baghdad’s
green zone, argued such criticism is unfair. “It is nonsense. Some
people who have made criticisms are experienced, others have never had
their feet off the office carpet. Even inside the green zone we have
had mortar, sniper fire and suicide bombers.” Marshall Future has
bought A&S Publishing, which includes 11 motoring magazines, for
nearly £6m, it was announced this week.

It is the company’s third acquisition in two months, and will enable Future’s expansion into the motoring sector.

Seven
of the A&S titles are monthly consumer motoring mags, including
Classic Ford , Mini Magazine, Total Vauxhall, and Total BMW.

Robert
Price, managing director of Future, said: “This is another step in
Future’s exciting growth phase and builds on the success of our own
motoring title, Redline. It’s an area we’ve been looking to expand into
for some time and the A&S titles will give us immediate critical
mass in the motoring segment.”

Future has stated that there are no plans to close any titles and that consultation will take place with all staff.

added
that never before had journalists been 100 per cent the target as
opposed to “guys getting in the way” in other conflict zones.

Colonel
Paul Brook, assistant director of media operations at the Ministry of
Defence, said the “embed plus” system had been set up in response to
press interest in covering the elections.

“Depending on the
security situation and the election authorities allowing media access
in the run-up to the conduct of the elections, we hope to use resources
to move journalists to wherever the action is happening,” said Col
Brook.

“We’re trying to solve the conundrum of media access in
Iraq in order to enable good, open and free reporting of the
elections,” he added.

Brown
said the “novel arrangements” were an indication of how “keen” the
British Government is to ensure the election is well reported.

Despite
the concerns about access, the Telegraph’s Philps said the system has
so far given its reporter, Oliver Poole, more freedom to report.

“It’s
early days, but Oliver is far less restricted now he is with the troops
in Amarah than he has been in the past.” he said.

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