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Regional press editors were in on the secret – and kept Harry news out of their papers

Regional press editors were bound by the secrecy surrounding Prince Harry’s service in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the news of his tour of duty yesterday afternoon.

All the UK media has observed a news blackout to protect him and the military personnel serving alongside him.

He has been there ten weeks but news of his presence was reported by foreign news organisations in the new year and again this week.

The revelation, if made by the British press, would have broken a voluntary protocol agreement which had the effect of a news blackout.

The regional press was bound by an informal voluntary agreement which is embraced by the whole of the British media.

A protocol exists about not publishing speculation on where he was being deployed to in the war zone.

It is thought to be the first understanding of its kind and one which allows briefings on what is happening through embedded journalists and facility visit coverage. During his time on tour of duty he has spoken to journalists and footage of him at work has now been shown.

The idea was to allow coverage once he came back safely – or if he had to return early because his tour has been compromised – and the press would have been able to fully report on it.

The Newspaper Society and the Society of Editors sent out information and advice to newspaper executives.

Executive director of the Society of Editors Bob Satchwell, said: “Regional editors were as much a part of this understanding as the national editors.

“They took on this understanding absolutely freely and it was not at our behest.

“It was about his military duties in Afghanistan and not about his other behaviour.”

Last night, Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt praised the “highly responsible attitude” of the British media but condemned those foreign outlets responsible for breaking the embargo.

Bob said: “Editors deserve General Dannatt’s praise. This was a big story which could have been broken at any time over the last eight months. They showed restraint simply so that Prince Harry and his colleagues in the war zone were not put in any extra danger.

“The MoD fulfilled their side of the understanding by arranging pooled access to the prince and his unit. This was a model of how an organisation can work sensibly with the media by taking editors into their confidence and trusting their good sense.”

Prince Harry is now being pulled out of Afghanistan. His proposed tour in Iraq was vetoed by the MoD last year.


B Bennett (03/03/2008 13:41:39)
My colleagues and I at Archant South West (Exeter) were certainly not ‘in on the secret’. Had somebody come to us and said they’d been serving with Prince Harry in Afghanistan, we’d have gone with a story.
B Bennett
Midweek Herald

Paul Lagan (04/03/2008 10:20:27)
That’s probably why you were not told about his deployment