Newsnight editor Peter Barron has just sent out an email defending his programme's transmission of an interview with The Taleban. The very fact he's seen fit to send the email might indicate to some people that he's under some pressure from above and from HGM. Here's what it says...
The Taleban are fighting to kill British soldiers in Afghanistan, they burn schools and support al-Qaeda. So is it right to talk to them? For Newsnight, David Loyn spent months trying to make contact with the Taleban leadership, and on Wednesday we showed his extraordinary film in which he travelled to Helmand province to interview their official spokesman for the first time (you can see it here). The Conservative defence spokesman Liam Fox called that "obscene", and the Daily Mail reported the views of the father of one British soldier who thought the BBC has acted irresponsibly, "undermining the war effort". Should the BBC report from the other side of the lines? We believe we should as long as we act with careful thought and do nothing to put the lives of British soldiers at risk. David Loyn's report showed how the Taleban operate in southern Afghanistan, how they view the British and Americans and how they plan to take their campaign forward through suicide bombings. He challenged their spokesman on the Taleban's campaign of violence against Nato's efforts at reconstruction, their burning of schools and rejection of democracy. Some believe it is disloyal to our armed forces to film the enemy. But if we agreed not to show them, isn't that just a small step away from censorship and pro-government propaganda? Peter Barron is editor of Newsnight.
Tim Montgomerie discussed this issue with former Tory Spin doctor Nick wood on his 18DoughtyStreet programme last night. Tim defended the BBC's transmission of this interview as he felt it important that people knew what the Taleban were like and saw the threat they posed. Nick Wood thought it was a disgraceful betrayal of our troops and agreed with Liam Fox that its transmission was a disgrace.
I am totally on the side of the BBC here. Surely this is what good journalism is all about? The film was a warning to us all and if anything should strengthen our resolve in both Afghanistan and Iraq.