Top UK journalists line up to criticise reporting of war

Top journalists are to express their concern about the way the war in war in Iraq has been covered at a one-day conference next month.

Speakers include the Evening Standard’s Andrew Gilligan, Peter Wilby from The Guardian and veteran investigative reporter Philip Knightley. Documentary maker Sean Langan is also to speak at the conference and former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan has lent his backing to the event.

Entitled: “‘The First Casualty? War, Truth and the Media Today”, the conference will bring together print and broadcast journalists to address concerns over standards of war coverage.

It takes place on 17 November at the London School of Economics.

Gilligan was himself the centre of media reports that the government “sexed up” the dossier making the case for war with Iraq in 2003. He said: “‘Much of the British media seems now to have put reporting from Iraq in the ‘too difficult’ category. This is the most important story in the world and it’s amazing how little coverage it gets in the British press.”

David Crouch, chair of conference hosts Media Workers Against The War, said: ‘Amid all the current agonising about media integrity, and at a time when BBC management is preparing to cut news gathering even further, can there be any area more worthy of scrutiny than reporting the ‘war on terror’?

‘This conference will set out the issues and debate how best to campaign to improve standards. It will seek to identify the main sources of pro-war bias as a first step to providing media workers with tools and resources for combating it.”

Wilby said that he believes the press has “learnt nothing from the dodgy dossiers and phantom WMDs that preceded the Iraq war”.

Sean Langan said: “I think the coverage of the war in Iraq, and the wider war on terror, has been the media’s darkest hour.”

Morgan, who opposed the Iraq war as Mirror editor, said: “The most effective way to prevent imperialistic, illegal and unethical wars waged by self-serving governments is a strong, aggressive and very loud media. It’s just a shame we haven’t seen much of that recently.”

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