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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 15:45 GMT
Why BBC used 'abuse' photos
By Gary Duffy
UK Editor, News Interactive

The photos showing alleged torture of Iraqis has sparked claims that using them puts British troops at risk of a backlash and humiliates the Iraqis concerned. Here the BBC puts its case for using them.

The court was shown 22 photographs depicting alleged abuse
The BBC used some photos but others were deemed too explicit

I am sure everyone from the Ministry of Defence to journalists reporting the story are aware of the damaging and potentially dangerous consequences of further publication of pictures showing the alleged abuse by British soldiers in Iraq.

I can also understand and share the concern that further publicity could well add to the suffering already caused to the Iraqi prisoners.

However these pictures were issued by an official military tribunal to the press, and the head of the army arranged a press conference to comment on them.

I think the public would find it strange if we were to suppress pictures that were already in the public arena, and which had been issued to the media in the full knowledge they would be widely published.

In fact, these pictures were issued to news agencies that sent them all over the world, including to the leading news stations and newspapers in the Middle East.

There would be little point in the BBC alone choosing not to publish the pictures, and I believe we reported the story in a fair and reasonable manner.

We chose not to publish some of the pictures because they were so explicit.

Chief of the General Staff Sir Mike Jackson
The photos were issued by a military tribunal and condemned by army chiefs

However, this story raised issues of the greatest possible public importance, and involved allegations of an extremely serious nature against soldiers who were representing the UK in Iraq.

The allegations alone could have major implications for the British army in this area for years to come.

The prime minister and most leading politicians have felt obliged to comment on the issue, and there has been an angry and public reaction from Arab countries.

I think we would be failing in our responsibilities if we did not allow the public to understand the gravity of the issue by allowing them view at least some of the pictures.

I fully acknowledge that this is a distressing and difficult issue, but I believe our decision to publish the pictures is fully justified.


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