Peter Barron

Talking to the enemy?

Newsnight logoThe Taleban are fighting to kill British soliders 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 irreponsibly, "undermining the war effort".

David Loyn interviews Taleban spokesman Dr Mahammed AnifShould 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

Daniel Pearl

Side by side

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoViewer Jamie Woolley wrote to The Editors yesterday, saying:

    I was concerned by two reports on the Ten O'Clock News [on Tuesday] or, rather, how they were juxtaposed. A report about consumption of the Earth's resources was swiftly followed by a piece about the bouyant state of British 4x4 manufacturing. While over-consumption cannot be laid solely at the door of the car industry, there was a complete lack of irony in the reporting. It's the same in the press - the liberal press is hard on the aviation industry for their contributions towards climate change yet still carry travel supplements. I realise the role of a programme like the Ten O'Clock News is to report on the news, not comment but sometimes, where one issue has a direct impact on the other, I wish the dots could be a little more joined up.

Jamie's comment is well made. One thing we've been trying hard to achieve on the Ten is to pull together different strands of a story - so perhaps the irony of climate change and 4x4 stories being on the same programme is something we should have pointed out.

Daniel Pearl is deputy editor of the Ten O'Clock News


BBC in the news, Thursday

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  • 26 Oct 06, 09:57 AM

The Sun: Reports that the BBC has been criticised for broadcasting an interview with members of the Taliban. (no link available)

The Guardian: The paper's leader column praises Today programme presenter John Humphrys. (link)

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