Victory for reporter who said 'no'

Richard
Gizbert has told Press Gazette of his “gratification” in receiving a
unanimous judgment from the employment tribunal which found he had been
wrongly dismissed by ABC News for refusing to cover the war in Iraq.

The
veteran foreign correspondent, who had covered Somalia, Rwanda and
Chechnya, has set a legal precedent by successfully arguing that ABC
dismissed him after 11 years with the company because of his refusal.

Gizbert
said: “We won an unambiguous judgment, carefully worded but completely
clear and obviously we are gratified because it preserves my
professional reputation in addition to protecting my family.”

Finding
in favour of Gizbert, the central London employment tribunal said: “The
tribunal concluded that an assignment which involved going to a war
zone did comprise a circumstance of danger. Although the respondent did
its best to protect its correspondents with both equipment and security
advisers, it is obvious that there is still a serious danger of anyone
going to such areas.”

It concluded that Gizbert had been unfairly dismissed “for a reason related to health and safety”.

The
tribunal also found that ABC’s London bureau chief Marcus Wilford gave
evidence that “was overstated and not entirely reliable”.

Gizbert’s
barrister, Patrick Green, of Henderson Chambers, said the judgment has
serious implications for reporters and their employers: “It recognises
the global workplace and the real risks of reporting from war zones. It
shows that a voluntary war zone policy should mean exactly what it
says.”

ABC has said it will appeal the judgment and has said
Gizbert was dismissed as part of a cost-cutting process. It reiterated
that it continues to operate a voluntary war zone policy.

Martin
Bell, the former BBC war correspondent, acted as an expert witness on
Gizbert’s behalf. He said this was a necessary case, particularly for
younger journalists who may not refuse an Iraq assignment for fear of
losing their jobs.

The remedy hearing to settle the financial
details of the case should be heard by early February, but this could
be delayed by an ABC appeal.

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