Reporting from Libya
Some weeks ago, I wrote on the blog about the difficulties of reporting from Libya. Shortly afterwards, three of my colleagues from BBC Arabic were seized and abused by the Libyan authorities before being released. I said at the time that Libya was a "tricky" place to report from at the best of times - a month on, it's perhaps an understatement to say it remains so.
Every war has the "journalists' hotel" - the Hotel Continental in Saigon, the Holiday Inn in Sarajevo, the Palestine in Baghdad. This time, the Government has corralled around a hundred reporters from around the world into the Rixos Hotel - a smart, Turkish hotel that has just celebrated its first anniversary. It's the garden of the Rixos that you see night after night behind Allan Little and Jeremy Bowen.
But in truth, in recent days, it's become a bit of a gilded cage. International reporters are not free to move around Tripoli - even before the start of the air assault by Britain, France and the United States, the BBC team needed Libyan "minders" to leave the hotel. In recent days, they've not been around - this morning, on Twitter, one of my colleagues in Tripoli likened it to serving a prison sentence, albeit one with a fancy hamam.
During yesterday's Commons debate on Libya, the prime minister paid tribute to the bravery of the British journalists in Libya. But he also suggested that those reporting from Tripoli were reporting under what he called "very, very strong reporting restrictions".
While it's true that we can't see everything we want, we can say whatever we want. Our correspondent in Tripoli, Allan Little, is not subject to censorship, and there is no requirement for him to submit his pieces for approval prior to broadcast. The restriction is on movement - something we have made clear in our reporting.
But reporting restrictions are not just confined to Libya. British military operations are covered by "Defence Advisory" notices - agreed by senior officials from Government and also from the media. Such agreements are not new - the UK Government first sought agreement from the media not to publish information "of value to the enemy" nearly a hundred years ago.
Since 2000, there have been five standing "DA Notices" - the first of which covers current military operations. These are voluntary, and are advisory. On Saturday, the MoD asked British news organisations not to detail timings of planes leaving the UK for operations in Libya during the opening hours of the air campaign, or reveal the detail of weapons being carried - the BBC agreed to the request. You can read what is covered by DA notices here.
Jon Williams is the BBC World News editor.