Mirror: led the anti-war opinion
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s censure of war on terrorism coverage, particularly 24-hour television news, has split the media with the majority coming down firmly against Straw’s view that the press has "no humility and no memory".
Straw accused the media of constantly demanding fresh news of the campaign and said there was evidence of a "Kosovo wobble"; commentators who said the war in Kosovo was a mistake early into the campaign are saying the same about Afghanistan.
The Mirror led anti-war opinion with the views of its former foreign correspondent, John Pilger, on the front page. The Sun has remained supportive of the Government, with a succinct "Cobblers to the Wobblers" thrust. But the rest of the papers have rushed to point out to Straw what a free press is all about.
Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers said: "We know this Government has a very thin skin when it comes to media criticism of any kind. It is not surprising that they will start to blame the messenger.
"The media needs to do its proper job of maintaining a plurality of comment from all sides of the political spectrum. We should certainly not allow the Government to think it can cow the media into meekly toeing its line. Questions will need to be asked at every stage of this campaign."
Independent editor Simon Kelner commented : "There is this voracious beast called the media which needs to be fed now in a way it hasn’t before. But as we have seen from newspaper circulations and from viewer and listener figures, there is a great appetite among the British public to know as much as we can about this war. I think the press is right to ask questions. We have to give our readers and viewers the fullest picture we can ascertain and the only way we can ascertain it is not by being spoonfed by official sources."
Roger Mosey, BBC head of TV news, denied 24-hour news channels are driving the agenda.
"The Government has said in the past that it likes 24-hour news because it provides more opportunities for background analysis and context," said Mosey. "Its main role is to provide updates outside the time of conventional bulletins.
"The Government has set its own criteria for this campaign and it’s a legitimate role of the media to judge them by the terms they’ve set themselves."
By Jean Morgan and Julie Tomlin