MoD blocks ITN ’embedded’ reporters

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has blocked ITN reporters from being “embedded” with British troops in a row over the broadcaster’s coverage of wounded soldiers.

It claims ITV News reports last week about the way injured soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan were treated contained inaccuracies and identified individuals without asking their permission.

In a letter to ITN, the MoD said: “You should be under no illusions about the level of anger that exists as a result of items you carried on your programmes.”

The department stressed it was not seeking to stop ITN reporting on Iraq or Afghanistan or having contact with defence officials either in the UK or overseas.

But it said that until it received a “satisfactory” response to its concerns it would not allow ITN reporters to “embed” – to travel with a military unit – with British troops.

“To be clear – we are not seeking to stop you reporting on Iraq or Afghanistan, speaking to our spokespeople here or in theatre or reporting the news,” the MoD letter said.

“However, until we have satisfactory answers. . . the MoD feels unable to guarantee that our people will be treated fairly, honestly and their privacy respected. Can you give me that reassurance?”

David Mannion, editor in chief of ITV News, wrote to the MoD yesterday demanding a clarification on the restrictions. His letter was reportedly copied to cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell, who works closely with the prime minister.

“We are in correspondence with the Ministry of Defence seeking clarification as to any restrictions on our travel on official trips,” he said.

An MoD official said it had not intended to make the row public, but had decided to release part of its letter to ITN when the story appeared in the press. To put the row into context, he noted that just one journalist was currently embedded in Afghanistan.

But a leaked email published in The Times from the MoD’s director of news, James Clarke, reveals the anger within the department. He wrote to ITN producers that last week’s bulletins were “as bad a hatchet-job as I’ve seen in years”.

He added: “Why on earth would we spend time, resources and valuable places wanted by Sky, the BBC and others to facilitate journalism like this? Answer – we’d have to be mad, and we’re not.”