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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Broadcasters hear Bin Laden video fears
Osama Bin Laden and a lieutenant in a recorded video broadcast on al-Jazeera
Bin Laden's media statements concern No 10
Broadcast news executives have been warned about the use of video footage featuring Osama Bin Laden during a meeting at Downing Street.

The UK government is concerned that the chief suspect in the 11 September terror attacks and members of his al-Qaeda network could be sending coded instructions to terrorists in the videotaped messages smuggled out of Afghanistan.

I think it's right that people do get to see and to hear the man who is at the centre of this crisis

BBC News head Richard Sambrook
Following discussions on Monday with Downing Street's head of strategic communications, Alastair Campbell, the BBC, ITN and Sky News all agreed to continue exercising care in the way material was handled.

But, in a joint statement, they also insisted that "the best people to judge what to broadcast are broadcasters".

"As responsible broadcasters we are mindful of national and international security issues and the impact reports can have in different communities and cultures," the statement said.

The broadcasters have also agreed not to publicise the prime minister's travel itinerary in advance or speculate about special forces units' likely locations or tasks.

Precautions continue

Richard Sambrook, head of BBC news, said after the meeting that the government was "quite happy" with the way Bin Laden broadcasts had been handled so far.

He told BBC News 24 there were no plans to drop such footage from bulletins, but said the corporation would continue with precautions including using short clips and voice overs.

"There are two different issues," Mr Sambrook went on.

We said we thought it would be useful if from time to time we did meet to discuss these issues in the future as the crisis develops

Richard Sambrook
"On the propaganda issue I think it's right that people do get to see and to hear the man who is at the centre of this crisis and believed to be behind these attacks.

"So I think on the propaganda basis we should continue to use them

"Clearly there's concern too that there maybe messages hidden in there but given that these statements are edited several times [before transmission]... and then voiced over and in any case we only use a fraction of those statements on air, it seems unlikely that any message would get through intact."

There had been "no pressure" on broadcasters so far to alter their news programming, Mr Sambrook said.

Further meetings

Monday's meeting was mainly so the government could share its "concerns and thoughts".

But it was "perfectly amicable and constructive" and they had agreed to hold further meetings as the situation developed, he added.

Earlier Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned of the demands placed by 24-hour news channels on military operations.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Straw: 24-hour media demands cannot be met
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he warned the public not to expect quick fixes in the campaign against terror.

"Extraordinary demands are made these days by the 24-hour media industry, who are expecting instant results, as if it were a Hollywood movie, rather than acknowledging what was said right at the beginning of this conflict, when President Bush and our prime minister said that this is going to be a very long haul - not days or weeks, maybe months.

"There are constant demands to change the pictures and have the 24-hour media industry try to set the parameters of the military campaign. We can't do that."

Fears over the videos of Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network emerged after Time magazine reported that intelligence officials believe the tape broadcast on the first day of the air strikes contained a coded warning to start more attacks.

The magazine reported that a former al-Qaeda follower now working for the CIA told them Bin Laden did not normally say "I swear to God" - meaning the phrase could be a code word used to tell his followers to put plans for new attacks into action.

Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC News
outlines what was discussed at the meeting
Alan Rusbridger, Editor, The Guardian newspaper
"The government shouldn't be seeking to restrict the poor flow of information we've already got"
See also:

13 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Arafat set for UK talks
10 Oct 01 | Middle East
TV station defends Bin Laden coverage
04 Oct 01 | Americas
US urges curb on Arab TV channel
08 Oct 01 | Media reports
Al-Jazeera goes it alone
10 Oct 01 | Middle East
In full: Al-Qaeda statement
14 Oct 01 | Middle East
Al-Qaeda threatens US and UK
14 Oct 01 | UK
Bin Laden's son defiant
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