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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 15:29 GMT
Black Watch and security fears
By Matt Holder
Editor, BBC NewsWatch website

Reports of the Black Watch's movements in Iraq sparked complaints that the BBC was putting troops' lives at risk. But foreign correspondents such as Ben Brown exclude vast swathes of information for that very reason.

Troops at work
Reports of Black Watch movements in Iraq has drawn strong criticism

The reports that drew the most concern were aired on October 27, as Black Watch moved out of Basra to take over operations previously carried out by US forces.

But for days after, viewers and listeners continued to call and e-mail in as details of the Black Watch's controversial assignment were reported on.

Some viewers said reporting such manoeuvres would "assist terrorists", adding that "insurgents are already monitoring their whereabouts".

However, in an interview with the NewsWatch programme, Ben Brown said he was always aware of security issues while covering the story.

He said: "They give me information and they give me briefings, 90 per cent of which I do not use, do not broadcast and do not publish.
BBC correspondent Ben Brown
Some people say it would be safer if nothing was published...but that clearly isn't in the interests of democracy
Ben Brown

"The vast majority of what I am told I do not report because it could possibly endanger the lives of British soldiers."

He continued: "It's a difficult balance - the public have a right to know about this deployment in the sense that it is controversial...and what the Army calls operational security and the lives of troops.

"Some people might say it would be a lot safer for British troops is there was nothing published...but that clearly isn't in the interests of democracy and it's not in the interests of the tax-payers who are paying for the British forces out here."

Unbeknown to many of those who called in to complain, the initial movements of the Black Watch when they set off on October 27 were filmed by another news organisation.

As a result of that, the British Army press office decided the information was in the public interest and granted permission for the BBC to film the troops and allow the information to appear on the radio and website as well.




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