ITN embedding privileges withdrawn

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LONDON -- Leading commercial news broadcaster Independent Television News has become embroiled in a damaging spat with the military here that has seen Britain's ministry of defense withdraw all "embedding" privileges from ITN reporters.

The unprecedented move comes after the ministry complained in a letter to ITN about a number of news reports covering the treatment of wounded soldiers.

The defense ministry singled out a Oct. 16 report that aired on ITV, which claimed that injured British servicemen were being brought back into England under cover of night so that they would not be seen by the public.

The ministry also claimed that ITN's report showed identifiable pictures of injured British soldiers without first seeking their permission.

ITN, which supplies all the flagship news broadcasts and other news services to ITV and Channel 4, will no longer be able to attach its reporters to British troops in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan until the dispute is resolved.

In a letter received by ITN on Tuesday -- some extracts of which were made available to reporters -- the defense ministry said there has been significant anger at the broadcasts, which had been made after ministry cooperation and briefings.

"You should be under no illusions about the level of anger that exists as a result of items you carried on your programs," the letter said. "To be clear: we are not seeking to stop you reporting on Iraq or Afghanistan, speaking to our spokespeople here or in theatre(s) or reporting the news. However, until we have satisfactory answers ... the MoD feels unable to guarantee that our people will be treated fairly, honestly and their privacy respected."

A spokesman for ITN confirmed receipt of the letter and said the news broadcaster was "in talks" to resolve the issue.

"We've sought clarification from the ministry about what their complaints were actually about and now we are in discussions about how best to resolve the situation," an ITN spokesman said, adding that a resolution was expected some time this week.

A defense ministry spokesman said that the discussions between the two agencies were confidential and that both sides were hoping to bring an end to disagreement.

"We are in discussions with ITN over their reporting but the discussions are private and we both hope to resolve the situation."

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