Union attacks ban on anti-war march

The BBC’s decision to ban senior journalists from the joining the peace march in London on Saturday has been deemed “extraordinary” by the NUJ.

The BBC has ordered senior editorial staff not to attend the anti-war march, in a bid to fend off potential allegations of political bias.

The order came in an e-mail to presenters, producers and newsroom staff from Mark Damazer, BBC deputy director of news.

But NUJ spokesman Tim Gopsill questioned what he called the BBC’s prevention of journalists exercising their freedoms of opinion and expression. “What cause to exercise these rights could be more pressing than an imminent war? The BBC does not normally make such statements. What is it scared of? Is it that the Government would be cross if they saw BBC journalists being off-message?

“The BBC’s coverage is already conspicuous for its failure to respond to the shift in public opinion against the war. While a clear majority of Britons and the governments of our neighbours are against the war, the BBC is still deploring French and German threats to NATO. It has no right to enforce a uniformity of opinion on staff.”

But a BBC spokeswoman said the message from Damazer was sent “to remind people of best practice”.

“There is a need for us to be seen as impartial, so it was sent just to people who are senior editors or represent or shape BBC output,” she added.

Stewart Purvis, editor-in chief of ITN, said his staff were free to attend the march. “We haven’t got a problem with the march.”

By Wale Azeez

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