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Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 16:03 GMT
TV man wins Iraq dismissal case
Richard Gizbert
Richard Gizbert is seeking 2.2m in compensation
A TV news correspondent who claimed he was sacked for refusing to go to Iraq has won his unfair dismissal case.

Richard Gizbert, 47, alleged the US broadcaster ABC News cancelled his freelance contract after he twice declined Middle East assignments.

The panel ruled Mr Gizbert was unfairly dismissed, a Central London Employment Tribunal spokesman said.

The London-based Canadian earlier claimed 2.2m in compensation. ABC News said it would appeal the decision.

The judgment stated: "The tribunal has concluded that the principal reason for dismissing the claimant, in circumstances where (ABC News) was cutting back on its budget, was his refusal to go to war zones."

Family commitments

The correspondent had withdrawn another claim of breach of contract.

Mr Gizbert had been a member of staff at ABC for 11 years but left to freelance in 2002.

The tribunal heard he had previously reported from Bosnia and Chechnya, but no longer wanted to undertake long trips because of family commitments.

ABC denied reports it had applied pressure on him to go to Iraq.

It said his lack of flexibility and the cost of employing him at 560 a day had led to him being axed in 2004. ABC's London bureau chief, Marcus Wilford, said Mr Gizbert had been "an average, not an outstanding correspondent".

This is an important principle for us. Assignments to war zones are, always have been and always will be voluntary
Jeffrey Schneider, vice-president of ABC News

But the panel ruled his unfair dismissal was "for an issue related to health and safety".

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the UK's National Union of Journalists, said: "This is a hugely important decision for journalists.

"It reinforces their right to act both on their conscience, and to act to safeguard their health and safety. This judgement will be welcomed by journalists, their friends and families everywhere."

Mr Gizbert said the ruling "amounts to a vindication for one individual, an indictment for ABC and a warning to all other news organisations.

"Voluntary war zone policies must mean what they say, and if you don't have a voluntary war zone policy, courts in the UK will impose one."

Jeffrey Schneider, vice-president of ABC News, said: "ABC News will vigorously appeal this decision.

"This is an important principle for us. Assignments to war zones are, always have been and always will be voluntary.

"We look forward to pursuing this matter in the coming days," he said.





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