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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 21:01 GMT 22:01 UK
BBC defends showing dead soldiers
Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth and Sapper Luke Allsopp
The soldiers were members of a bomb disposal team
The BBC has stood by its decision to show the bodies of British soldiers killed in Iraq in a documentary on Sunday, despite pressure from Downing Street and the families not to.

The footage, in which faces were blurred out, showed Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, and Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, lying dead in the street.

It was part of a documentary looking at how the Arabic television station Al-Jazeera covered the war in Iraq.

The BBC defended itself by saying the subject covered was in the public interest.

In a statement on Sunday, the Correspondent programme-makers said they had "sought to avoid shock and sensation".

Downing Street had urged the corporation to respect the wishes of the men's families, who had called it "absolutely devastating".

We kept it to a minimum and there were no close-ups and those featured were heavily disguised
BBC spokesman

A spokeswoman said: "We have said to any television station showing pictures of soldiers injured or killed that they should respect the feelings of families, especially at what must be a very difficult time for them.

"We fully endorse what the Ministry of Defence has said and support their decision to ask the BBC to reconsider and not broadcast this footage."

The families have also been backed by the Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith.

Before the programme was broadcast, he told a UK newspaper: "I call on the BBC to step back from this decision and to put the families, and those who have lost their lives in the service of their country, first.

"They should not forget that these are real families, real lives and real tragedies."

Family 'sadness'

The programme explored the influence of Al-Jazeera and the differences in reporting between the Arab and Western media.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation had approached the families from the outset so they would understand what the programme was about.

"The BBC is sympathetic to the feelings of everyone who lost loved ones in the war and we do understand the distress they are going through.

Widow 'upset'

"We kept it to a minimum - literally a couple of seconds - and there were no close-ups and those featured were heavily disguised," he said.

Alison Cullingworth, the widow of Simon Cullingworth, heavily criticised the decision to broadcast.

She told a UK newspaper before it was aired: "As a mother of young sons, I'm very upset and annoyed the BBC should show the film of Simon and Luke at this time of great sadness for my family."

The two soldiers, who both came from Essex, were members of a bomb disposal unit of the 33 (EOD) Engineer Regiment.

They went missing on 23 March after an attack near Al Zubayr, although the exact circumstances of their deaths are not yet known.

Lieutenant Colonel Tony Troulan, the soldiers' commanding officer, previously said: "All I would say to the people at the BBC is that, if it was your husband's body lying in the dirt, being bayed over by an unruly mob, would you want that footage shown?"


SEE ALSO:
Al-Jazeera
01 May 03  |  Correspondent
US protest over al-Qaeda tape
22 May 03  |  Middle East
Media incensed at journalist killings
09 Apr 03  |  Middle East
'POWs and dead' shown on TV
27 Mar 03  |  Middle East
Should images of dead soldiers be shown?
01 Jun 03  |  Have Your Say


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