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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Sacked TV reporter was 'average'
Richard Gizbert, who is seeking 2.2m in compensation for unfair dismissal
Richard Gizbert is seeking 2.2m in compensation
A TV reporter who claims he was fired for refusing to work in Iraq lost his job for being "average", a tribunal has heard.

Richard Gizbert, who had worked for US broadcaster ABC for 11 years, is seeking 2.2m in compensation for unfair dismissal.

Mr Gizbert's former boss described the reporter as "not outstanding", denying he had been asked to work in Iraq.

The tribunal in London is to hear from other foreign correspondents.

New arrangement

In 2002, Mr Gizbert's contract changed from a staff one to that of a freelancer contracted to work 100 days a year at 1,000 US dollars (560) a day.

Marcus Wilford, London bureau chief for ABC News, said both parties hoped to benefit from the new arrangement.

Family commitments meant that the reporter no longer wanted to work on long assignments abroad, Mr Wilford said.

After joining the network in 1993, Mr Gizbert had covered many high profile foreign stories, including the conflict in Bosnia and Chechnya.

But a lack of flexibility and the cost of his employment led to him being unaffordable, Mr Wilford said.

"He could be very argumentative over his scripts and in interviews did all the talking, instead of letting his interviewee tell the story.

"He was an average, not outstanding correspondent."

Key ABC programmes had become reluctant to use Mr Gizbert, the bureau chief said, meaning that when staff cuts became necessary in 2004, it was decided not to renew his freelance contract.

Risk testimony due

Mr Gizbert says his contract was terminated after he twice declined assignments in the Middle East.

ABC News denies this, saying that other reporters who turned down similar work have kept their jobs.

Mr Wilford told the tribunal that the reporter had proposed a return to a staff job in September 2004, saying he would be theoretically happy to take an assignment in Baghdad.

This was ruled out due to budgetary constraints, the hearing was told.

The tribunal, which is set to run for five days, is due to hear from former BBC journalist Martin Bell, who will talk of increased risks to war reporters.

Mr Gizbert's lawyers will argue that health and safety protection in British employment law should apply to journalists employed in the UK who are assigned to war zones.

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