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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 April 2007, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK
Should the captives sell their stories?
The Ministry of Defence is to allow the Royal Navy personnel held captive by Iran to sell their stories to the media because of the "exception circumstances" of the case. Some of the 15 have already said any money will go to charity.

Former Gulf War PoW John Nichol and one time head of the Royal Navy Sir Alan West expressed differing opinions on the MoD decision when interviewed on BBC News 24.

John Nichol, former RAF navigator and prisoner of war during the first Gulf War

John Nichol, former Gulf War prisoner of war

I think the MoD are being quite canny. I think these stories would inevitably come out whether it would be through families, "friends of"... something like that.

Allowing them to tell their stories openly and immediately means that the MoD will keep some sort of control.

I think there is a case of a little bit of snobbery here. One rule for the senior officers. One rule for the other ranks. These people, if somebody is interested in their stories, if somebody wants to pay for them, that's the world that we live in.

In one way these sailors and marines are damned if they do and damned if they don't
John Nichol

This is not without precedent. I did it myself 16 years ago when I was in the air force.

And, of course, it's a little bit galling to hear politicians, civil servants, saying that serving troops shouldn't tell their stories because it can be embarrassing or something - when we have politicians, civil servants queuing up to garner huge sums of money to sell their stories to the media.

I don't think there's any security implications here, I don't think there's any implications for the naval forces in the area or anything like that.

These stories will come out and in a matter of days they're going to be chip paper...

In one way these sailors and marines are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

They have been courted by the media, they have been the subject of massive media speculation, the media have been camped outside each and every single one of their houses desperate to hear the stories.

And now because we are going to hear what the stories are, they are now being subject to attack.

Admiral Sir Alan West, former head of the Royal Navy

Sir Alan West (Photo - MoD)

I would have refused [to allow the stories to be sold to the media].

I think it's unfortunate. I understand the difficulty the MoD have in terms of trying to control this because there's no doubt the media are rushing around trying to see friends, family, putting in offers, bids.

There's huge pressure across the board but it quite clear the rules we have are that people aren't allowed to do this sort of thing and whilst, yes, in exceptional circumstances, and these are exceptional, the MoD can change the rules, I don't think they have helped these young men and this young woman in this case.

I think it would have been better if maybe they handled it in a slightly different way.

It's important that their stories get out because those stories are important - we need to know the truth - but there are ways of doing that without allowing exclusives and huge amounts of money to whistle around.

I do not believe that it will sit well with the rest of the services and I do not think it will sit well with the country
Sir Alan West

It is going to cause a great amount of upset in other quarters of the Navy and in the other services.

Here we have a really unpleasant incident, there's lots to be looked into - there's no doubt in my mind that the Iranians acted very badly - and suddenly all the focus is actually on people getting money.

It is not good. I do not believe that it will sit well with the rest of the services and I do not think it will sit well with the country.

I think what would be extremely good is to say, 'OK we will let this happen, we will let these people have the single outlets...' and then say 'the money though will be split up and go to service charities', even be willing to let them to pick the service charities of their choice.

That might be a way of defusing it all. People would then feel this isn't for personal gain.



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