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Iraq War: MEDIA: Reporters spark safety fear.

Media coverage of the war in Iraq could place British forces at risk, a Midland MP said yesterday.

Bill Wiggin (Con, Leominster) raised the concern in the House of Commons, as Defence Minister Geoff Hoon answered questions. He spoke of the amount of coverage, some of of which was helpful but some of which could be detrimental, especially to special forces.

Mr Hoon replied: 'Given the nature of the modern 24-hour media, by and large I believe journalists have behaved responsibly and have observed the rules set for them.'

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Paul Keetch (Hereford) said the deaths of the Royal Marines and US colleagues was 'news that will chill us all'. He pressed Mr Hoon to say whether the missiles fired by Iraq had been banned Scud or Al Samoud types. Mr Hoon said analysis was continuing as to their exact nature 'not least because two of them were comprehensively destroyed by Patriot missiles'.

But Mr Hoon took sharp issue with Labour's Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate), who voiced sympathy for the families of the dead Marines who had 'been so tragically and, in my view, somewhat needlessly, lost'. To shouts of support, he told her: 'Can I strongly resist the suggestion you made that those lives were needlessly lost.

'Those young men were engaged on important operations in carrying through the military objectives of the UK and the coalition allies. If you were to go and speak to those families, to their colleagues, they would be proud of what they have achieved and would resist strongly the observation you have made.'

Anti-war Labour MP George Galloway (Glasgow Kelvin) insisted: 'For the first time in history the action you have ordered the forces to take is not supported by the majority of the British people, as is shown by the demonstrations all over the country and will be shown again by the demonstrations in London, Glasgow and elsewhere.'

Mr Hoon said: 'I think your protests, sincerely held though they are, would be much stronger if on the opportunities you have had to go to Baghdad you had protested publicly about the opposition there being able to speak out rather than having its tongue cut out when it does.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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