A broadcast journalist has spoken of his shock after returning from a dangerous assignment in Iraq to be told that he would have to take the time as holiday.
Bahar Hussein, who was working for London-based Arab News Network, also believes that he was not insured for the trip.
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He said: “Anything could have happened in the war zone.
Iraq is my country, but is really unsafe. If I had been taken as a hostage, who would have defended me, looked after me, who would try to release me?
That really disappointed me.”
He spoke to Press Gazette after winning £28,979 from an employment tribunal which found unanimously that he had been constructively dismissed and had three months’ salary withheld. Hussein was backed by the NUJ.
The tribunal heard that in October 2005, Hussein was sent to Baghdad for two weeks, where he interviewed Iraqi politicians as well as militants active in the insurgency. When he returned from Iraq, his manager at ANN told him his time in the war zone counted as holiday.
He said he took his first holiday in two years in June 2006, but while he was away, his managers replaced him with a new employee on a lower salary.
Hussein claims he then returned to work but was given nothing to do for three months, so was effectively forced to resign.
Arab News Network said it intended to appeal the decision, with evidence it did not originally bring to trial. General manager Moussa Frour said he did not dispute that Hussein had been sent to Iraq to work, but denied he had been refused holidays at any point.
Frour said he could not confirm if Hussein had been insured by the broadcaster, but said the evidence would show ANN had no problem with Hussein. “We wanted him to work,” said Frour. “We had no problem with him.”
Hussein’s lawyer David McElrea, of Thompsons, said the lack of responsibility shown by ANN to its staff was “widespread”
within the industry.
“It’s a bit more prevalent in the smaller titles, but I have seen it all the way through,” he said.
Hussein was exiled from Iraq in 1978 and went to Dubai, moving to the UK in 1992.