Why the British Media Kept Silent About Prince Harry In Afghanistan
February 28, 2008

By Simon Bucks, Associate Editor

350harryEditors in the British media, including Sky News, have known since last December that Prince Harry was fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

They agreed, in an extraordinary and rare display of unity, not to report the story - in return for media access to the Prince which could be used when his deployment ended.

The deal was brokered by the Society of Editors, of which I am this year's President.

Censorship is an anathema to journalists, and self censorship even more so.  In the lengthy discussions about the wisdom and ethics of doing this deal - many British editors voiced their concerns. Not only were they anxious that it might dilute their future credibility with the public, but some also thought Prince Harry should not go at all because of the risk it would bring to bear on his fellow soldiers.

In the end, though, it was this argument which won over the editors to the idea of a news blackout.  It was evident that the Ministry of Defence had decided it was going to deploy the Prince to a war zone - something he had been pressing for since he was commissioned.

So the choice we faced was stark - if we told the story we would put him and the troops with him in serious jeopardy. Or agree to a deal which would produce (as it has) some extraordinary video, photos and written reports of the Prince at the frontline.

Media blackouts are not actually that unusual. We tend not to report kidnaps, at the request of the police, if a hostage's life might be a risk. We often know about the movements of politicians or royalty (for operational reasons) but don't report them. But Prince Harry's deployment to war was of a  different order.

The deal was blown, not by the UK media but by a foreign website, the Drudge report.  Drudge says by releasing the story he has demonstrated his independence, and criticised sites like the Huffington Post which stayed silent.

Where Drudge got the story from is a mystery - some suspect an element of the British media which wanted to break the story for its own ends.   
Nevertheless, the Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt, who is head of the British Army, said he was disappointed the news had leaked.

"I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us," he said.
"This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude that the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number of overseas, who have entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations."

What is the point of a media blackout in the internet age? Well , in this case it lasted more ten weeks, to the surprise of many involved. And although it has now been broken it will, I believe, reflect well on the British media and improve its standing with a public who too often complain about it.

95harrynew :: Did we co-operate or collude? Read Tim Marshall's blog here

Written by Sky News, February 28, 2008


Prince Harry is being used in the US-sponsored propaganda war to promote the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest salvo in this war was the US commander's "commendation" of Harry and his colleagues for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. So now Gordon Brown's bosses in Washington are co-opting our Royals as well as our national resources and our parliament into their endless anti-Islamic ideological offensive. All that is left for Brown to do is to offer Buckingham Palace as a Pentagon Ops Room.

Why is everyone making such a big deal out of the prince being in iraq. Nobody makes a bid deal on the already fallen human men and women. And the English goverment seems to talk about life these days as if its expandable anyway no matter what we say. Lets be straight here is this for the benefit of the prince or is it just to get more people to sign up to the forces, because of so many leaving the army over the evidence of the going to war in the first place. It seems we have to fight for everyone these days except our own country and history and people. Labour is a very under the table operating goverment and we want them out of power. Just because a human is a prince does,nt mean we should plaster it all the over the papers and tv, he is a human yes but are,nt i ?. what about all the others who are fighting for us why dont you give them a chance to view there opions and have there say, oh hang on you cant because there are to many doors that will never opened for us, and why that is in place we will never be told the truth on the war in iraq will we and yet the goverment claim to be truthful on all matters, i think a lot of lieing is going on in England these days, no one seems to tell the truth anymore.

Its about time the british press actually used common sense,all they do is chase down people like amy whinehouse looking for that drug shot etc.etc. leave her alone and concentrate on getting proper news what the british public want to read and hear about.Anyway back to harry,well done to the press for not leaking any info out about harry`s where abouts and well done harry for carrying out your duties,fellow royals should take note!

I think that the UK press cooperation re Prince Harry is commonsense at least and protects freedom of press. However the UK is far from protecting its citizens let alone its soldiers from the current Phase of Pyschological warfare operations being waged against the civilised world by hordes of savages. Wake up UK WORLD WAR THREE is well advanced and on target - UK is in serious danger - wake up UK.I am an experienced Psyops officer.

I can appreciate the necessity for a media blackout and the danger "our lads and lasses" would have been exposed to, on top of all the other dangers by being in Afghanistan, but I do not agree with Harry being there in the first place.

Just by being there, he put others in extra danger and has made himself even more of a target back home in Britain.

This whole thing seems to me to be a pre arranged publicity stunt and a PR exercise to try and get the Royal family some good press (for a change).

I can appreciate that Harry may well want to do the things normal, everyday 21 year olds do, but he isnt from a normal family, is he? He is a Royal and that means he (and anyone near him) is a target to anyone who wants to hit back at Britain.

He should not have been there in the first place. Now please will you cut down on the "Hero" Prince Harry bit, it gets boring after a while.
Lets see our lads and lasses from Afghanistan and Iraq coming home to heroes welcomes, like they all deserve. I dont support the war, I never have, but the fact remains that our people are over there, doing what they are trained and ordered to do and they did not need Harry there playing toy soldiers. Sorry, he is probably a very nice guy but in reallity, he should have known he would pose a great risk to others by going.

When all is said and done though, the media blackout was essential to the well being to our troops. Well done on that score. Trust the yanks to spill the beans.

It would seem the British press behaved impecable on this issue, and I for one would applaud them for that.

For those who are so anti-British and/or anti-Royal to think this is a disgrace, I await their responce the next time:

The press find out about a police raid on drug takers and don't report it until after it has taken place.

Or they are interviewing Bin Laden or some other muppet and don't inform the allies where he is.

The freedom of the press is always used when it is in the interest of the press, and often they hide behind the facade of it is in the publics interest. This time they come out of this with credibility (not often used when talking about the press) and have used common sense and because of that have probably ended up with a far better story.

Having been on the "frontline" as they say I would thank Harry and all who are in danger with our forces and for the first time I would like to thank the British media.

So you've demonstrated restraint - well done, very admirable.
Now you bleat on about cencorship being anathema (by the way there's no need for the indefinite article with anathema!)
Could you perhaps strive to achieve lack of censorship with lack of sensationalism?

The reason the media has no credibility is that we're plastered with photos of rock stars taking drugs (shock) scaremongering of the latest global impending disaster (cry wolf?) and calls for minister XYZ to be removed from office for lying/cheating (Politicians lie and cheat, changing this would require little short of shooting the lot of them, don't try to get our indigation up by telling us we've been lied to... we were lied to about The easter bunny and god and we were lied to in elections - we'll get over it - having the media decide the cabinet posts for the latest trendy witch hunt for a minister only serves to destabilize the running of the country which is farcical enough as it is without the musical chairs game instigated by the media.)

If you want real scaremongering then wake up to the fact that the UK media is within a whisker of achieving the lofty ignorance of Fox News.

As an American I am ashamed that Matt Drudge endangered the lives of Prince Harry and the men with him and I apologize. If I knew where to contact Matt Drudge I would urge him to go to Afganistan with as much media fanfare as possible.
Maybe there was more to Shakespheare's "Henry the V".

After reading the news it saddens me to think that even today when it is all clear for us that hundreds of thousands of innocent civillians have been killed in iraq and afghan based on lies,that a person would force himself to go and particpalte in a occupation of another nation.
i undertand now how germans too were proud of their armed forces as all they got was propaganda disguised as news.

There is a much deeper issue here which I am pleased to see the British media have respected - that embedded journalists are bound by the operational security of the units and personnel on which they are reporting.

The Official Secrets Act must surely be revised to accommodate the issues which have been raised here and where international agencies are empowered with information regarding UK national security they must be held accountable for how they use that information.

Our servicemen and women do the bidding of the government without recourse and they must be protected by every means available.

Please forget party politics and let's see some robust national and international legislation pushed through respective parliaments to protect all of the men and women that the politicians send to war.

Are we missing the point here. Our lads are fighting a war - it is not a boy Scouts camping trip. The media should not be allowed to be embedded, or indeed be anywhere near our troops, when they are in a war theatre. It is obvious that for agreeing to a blackout on news the media have been all over Prince Harry and his colleagues throughout the last 10 weeks. Now we are seeing a disgusting plethora of news stories which is nothing short of the media 'cashing in' as payment made for the news blackout. War is not a soap opera - let our lads fight it, within the Geneva convention, without giving the left wing liberals the opportunity to squeal with horror if they accidentally break an enemies finger nail.

Congratulations to the British media on maintaining the blackout. Harry is being withdrawn for the safety of his men, this is a good decision but please remember that it is not Harry's own choice, given the choice he would be staying. He deserves nothing but praise.

To tell you the truth I wish the D-Notice and Black-out compliance were still in place. There are 8000 other British sevice personnel deployed in Afghanistan, the only time we will hear any of their names mentioned on the British Media will be when one of them are killed.
Please, please, give some consideration to the families of these young people as they pray each day and night for their save return and shut up about Harry.

Just because we do not have the Luftwaffe dropping bombs on london this time does not mean we are not involved in a war, and in a war it is EVERY citizens duty to ensure our fighting men are not compromised.There is a higher duty than mere journalistic "scoops"
"Careless, (or malignant?)talk costs lives"

This is a surprisingly good comment on the responsibility and patriotism of the British media. But the question still remains: why is the Prince there anyway and why are we there, in Afghanistan? It is a neo-con war fought on behalf of President Bush and Israel, not the UK, and it is not in our interests. The Prince is being used as a propaganda tool for Bush's war.

The Australian magazine has not the backbone to apologise for their part in releasing the news about Prince Harry,- but as an ashamed Australian I will apologise for this trashy magazine's total insensitivity. Their part in this is deplorable. No thought whatsoever of any soldiers life - no just the fact they had an 'exclusive'. Australians have not been very kind in their comments about the antics of this magazine and I believe it will take sometime for the New Idea as a whole to recover from this utter stupidity behaviour simply to gain 'an exclusive'.

Although I believe that the Freedom of the Press & Speech is Very Important and Must Not Be Stopped.

But it's about a matter of life or death not just to Prince Harry but to the People of the British Army.

But I don't blame "the Drudge Report", since he thought it was **HIS** scoop.

I am very happy that i only found out this news today. Congrats to all the media involved that actually managed to keep a secret for once. Harry may be a prince but to the enemy he is so much more than that. He isn't getting special treatment.
Anyone with any common sense must surely see that this needed to be kept confidential and if and when the story broke Harry needed to leave. Well done Harry and may God bring all your comrades home safely too.

Bravo to the media who knows what news to report and when to report it. Here we Americans go again thinking we are above the rest and unilaterally took it upon ourselves to break this story on a global scale and, by doing so, put the lives of many soldiers at risk. Americans should hang their heads low in shame. Let's send Barbara and Jenna over to fight and announce it worldwide and hear the outcry Americans would make over the media putting their lives at risk. Why do we think we can live by our own rules and abide by no one else's?

Well done Harry but thumbs down media! There is more going on in life.

As an American I am ashamed over the part that the Drudge Report played in this "expose". I wonder how many of these self grandizing journalists would be around today if their predecessors had tripped over their feet to uncover and publish the real landing sites of D-Day.

Interesting that the web site that broke the news about Harry is described lower down the page as being run by a good friend of yours!

Bet this does not get onto your page, or would that be censorship???

I thought the media were supposed to report the news not hide it away and be good little boy and girls for the Government.I am deeply disappointed with Sky News for going along with this censorship and my respect for you has been severely damaged.

“Not only were they anxious that it might dilute their future credibility with the public”
Who do you guys think you are fooling? The only thought behind the consideration is ‘How many newspapers can I sell if and when I do publish’. the hunger of the public for sensational news and the need for something new every day points to the fact that credibility is not even considered in their mind.
“In the end, though, it was this argument which won over the editors”
It was a no-brainer! The conversation should have gone as follows:
Ministry of Defence “Please do not publish this story as the lad and his mates will be at risk”
Media “Okay”
For as long as I can remember the media has behaved disgracefully as far as the armed forces are concerned. Colonel H Jones vowed that if he lived through the battle he would sue the BBC for announcing that he and his men were sneaking up on Goose Green. Unfortunately he did die. The coverage of the HMS Cornwall hostages in Iran caused more damage to the Royal Navy than an enemy fleet. Thanks to the press stupidity a thousand years of a proud and respected navy was destroyed The world at large will remember Leading Seaman Turney longer than they will Grenville, Blake and Nelson. Albeit the blame there should rest squarely with the MOD in allowing it to happen. I admit to be an avid news reader but there must be a responsible approach to what is or is not published. In the main, however, I see the ‘honourable’ profession of journalism as jackals and hyenas prepared to publish anything regardless of the harm it may cause and hiding behind the trite ‘The public have the right to know’
As an ex-serviceman I implore the media at large to try to protect our armed forces that are fighting and dying in foreign countries to enable you to enjoy the luxury of pontificating at home.

What's all the fuss about? If it's OK to show newsreels and pictures of the average soldier in any given war, the same should apply to a prince even if he is, of course, instantly given HERO status! The rest of the army are just human fodder, I guess...... Republicanism for ever.

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