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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 21:31 GMT 22:31 UK
Reporter claims sacking over Iraq
Richard Gizbert
Richard Gizbert is seeking 2.2m in compensation
A reporter who worked from London for US broadcaster ABC News has claimed he was sacked because he refused to cover the Iraq war.

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

An ABC vice-president said his contract was terminated as part of a cross-network cost-cutting exercise.

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

Mr Gizbert, 47, said his employers told him they needed reporters who "would kick down doors".

Network changes

His 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.

ABC's vice-president of news coverage Mimi Gurbtz said she had been told in 2004 to reduce the news coverage budget by 10%, which led to many job losses.

"Since the beginning of 2004 many of our own staff and freelancers have had their contracts cut or reduced in order to meet the budget, including camera crews and correspondents who would travel to war zones," the tribunal heard from her.

Gizbert first joined the network in 1993 and covered many high profile foreign stories, including the conflict in Bosnia and Chechnya.

However, he became less willing to travel for long periods of time - and to dangerous places - because of his family commitments.

In 2002 his 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.

'Luxury'

This meant his work preferences could be accommodated, but he worked much more than 100 days a year.

However, Miss Gurbtz said the cut meant freelancers like Mr Gizbert were likely to be shown the door as he "became a luxury they could no longer afford".

Questioned by Gizbert's counsel Patrick Green that his client was dismissed because he was inflexible, Miss Gurbtz said: "I would say it may be in the list of reasons, but very low down, if at all."

The tribunal is due to hear from former BBC journalist, Martin Bell, who will tell them that since 11 September, war reporters are no longer just at risk of being "caught in the crossfire but are targets themselves".

He will refer to the attack on BBC security correspondent, Frank Gardner, and executed American journalist, Daniel Pearl.




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