We could withdraw from Iraq if there is civil war, says the BBC

The BBC could withdraw from Iraq in the event of a full-scale civil war, according to the corporation's head of newsgathering, Fran Unsworth.

She spoke to Press Gazette after the killing of news cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan, both British, in Baghdad on Monday.

Unsworth told Press Gazette she could envisage a point where the corporation could decide that it was too dangerous to report from Iraq. The BBC currently maintains a basic team of nine in Baghdad, not including locally hired staff.

Unsworth said: "We are not there yet, and I don't know if we ever will be there, but I can see that there are circumstances where we would feel that it would not be at all safe to be there."

She said that if there were a full-scale civil war, if institutions of government disappeared and the coalition forces withdrew, then the BBC would be unlikely to operate in such circumstances.

She said that whether to pull out of Iraq is an ongoing question for the BBC.

"We have decided that we are going to be there and that it is an enormous story that we feel we have a responsibility to report. It obviously has to be balanced against a responsibility to our staff's safety and we constantly keep the safety of our staff and our operation there under review — we have daily conversations about the situation."

Douglas and Brolan were working for CBS news and were embedded with US troops when they were killed by a roadside bomb. News correspondent Kimberly Dozier, injured in the attack which also killed a US soldier, remains in intensive care.

Brolan, 42, a freelance soundman, was part of a CBS team honoured earlier this year by the Overseas Press Club for its dispatches on the Pakistan earthquake. Douglas, 48, had covered the world's hotspots for CBS for more than a decade.

Dozier, 39, who has dual US-British citizenship, has reported from Iraq for the past three years, and previously worked for BBC Radio World Service's World Update before joining CBS.

Legendary CBS anchorman Dan Rather said of his dead colleagues this week: "Paul Douglas and James Brolan were not your average pros. They were among the best in the world at what they did, and among the bravest.

Kimberly Dozier still is, as she fights for life. They proved their mettle and their professionalism time after time, in one dangerous dateline after another."

Rather recalled one incident when Douglas, whom he described as "a great bear of a man", rolled on top of him to cover his body when a shell fell nearby in Sarajevo.

He said of Brolan: "Freelances have a particularly rough go in the news business.

With James, you'd never know it.

He never complained, never moaned, just did his job and tried to bring sunshine wherever he went. In the dark holes where he had been working, it was never easy."

Both Brolan and Douglas started working for the CBS London bureau as soundmen in the early 1990s. Douglas previously served in the British army.

Chris Cramer, president of CNN international, this week spoke at the International Press Institute congress of his "trauma" at having to send correspondents to Iraq.

He said: "Let me confide in you here that I am frequently so distressed by the dangers there, so traumatised by the risks that my colleagues and I ask people to take on a daily basis, that the easiest thing would be to suggest we don't bother. It would be easy to say the world is such a dangerous place that we should pull back, rely on other people to do our primary newsgathering. Except that's not an option, that's not the safe privilege that any of us here enjoy. We have a duty to report the entire world as best we can. As the world gets more dangerous, that duty is more pronounced."


The killings of Douglas and Brolan brought the number of journalists and media workers to die while covering the current Iraq conflict, which began three years ago, to 127, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which only counts journalists killed as a result of hostilities, puts the figure at 71. The figure crept yet higher on Wednesday when Reuters reported that an Iraqi TV sports anchorman had been shot dead in Baghdad.

The vast majority of the dead media workers are Iraqis, but the following is a list of those killed who were either British or belonged to British-owned news organisations.

22 March, 2003
Terry Lloyd, ITN Fred Nerac, ITN Hussein Osman, ITN Caught in a crossfire outside Basra, according to the ITN investigation. Briton Lloyd was killed after the ambulance taking him to hospital came under fire from a US helicopter gunship.

31 March, 2003
Gaby Rado, ITN Foreign affairs correspondent, found dead in the car park of a hotel in northern Iraq after apparently falling from the roof.

2 April, 2003
Kaveh Golestan, BBC Iranian freelance cameraman on assignment for the BBC, was killed in northern Iraq when he stepped on a landmine after getting out of his car.

6 April, 2003
Kamaran Abdurazaq Muhamed, BBC Hit by a US bomb.

8 April, 2003
Taras Protsiuk, Reuters Killed along with Spanish journalist Jose Couso after a US tank fired on the Palestine Hotel.

5 July, 2003
Richard Wild, freelance British journalist was gunned down by an unknown assailant in a Baghdad street.

17 August, 2003
Mazen Dana, Reuters Palestinian cameraman Dana was shot by a US soldier in a tank while filming near Abu Ghraib Prison outside Baghdad.

1 November, 2004
Dhia Najim, Reuters Apparently shot by American troops while filming in Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

28 August, 2005
Waleed Khaled, Reuters Reuters soundman killed when US troops opened fire on their car in Baghdad.

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