Fabricated news: Forlong was forced to resign from Sky News following a fake news report he broadcast from aboard the submarine HMS Splendid
- July 26, 2017
- July 6, 2017
- June 29, 2017
The NUJ has made an appeal to media organisations to treat their journalists “with more consideration” and to regard them as being “just as liable to be upset or seriously stressed as anyone else”, after former Sky News reporter James Forlong committed suicide at the weekend.
Forlong, who resigned from Sky News in July after faking a news report aboard the submarine HMS Splendid during the war in Iraq, was found hanged at his home in Hove, East Sussex, in the early hours of Saturday morning, by his wife Elaine.
She said in a statement on Monday that Forlong had been “shattered” as a result of having to resign following an internal investigation prompted by a BBC documentary that featured the fabricated report.
He left Sky News after 10 years with the broadcaster. At the time, head of Sky News Nick Pollard said he believed Forlong had taken “the only possible course”.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said “the oldfashioned idea that journalists are so thick-skinned that they are immune to psychological damage has got to go.
“The union often has the impression that some managers relish treating journalists brutally,” he said. “They should remember that we are just as liable to be upset or seriously stressed or to suffer depression as anyone else. Many members are bullied and harassed and suffer terrible stress. The union often hears of people who have been driven to breakdowns.”
Forlong: ‘shattered’ as a result of resignation
He was also critical of Sky’s refusal to recognise unions, which meant the NUJ was not involved in any discussions surrounding Forlong’s departure.
“There are procedures for dealing fairly with disciplinary cases but Sky does not recognise unions and the NUJ was not involved in the dismissal. Who knows what might have happened if it had been? “Surely we have moved on from the days when editors barked ‘you’re fired!’ at people. Journalists are people too and they have a right to be welltreated by their employers.”
Following news of Forlong’s death, Pollard said it was “a terrible personal tragedy and a shocking blow for James’s family. Everyone here sends their deepest sympathies to James’s wife and children.”
Forlong began his career in newspapers, with the West Sussex County Times and the Evening Argus, Brighton. He moved to the BBC in 1984, where he was a radio reporter for four years. In 1988 he moved to television, as ITN news correspondent reporting from Somalia, Syria, Lebanon and Bosnia.
He went to Sky News in 1993, as senior foreign correspondent. He is survived by his widow and two children.
By Wale Azeez