Backlash against Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow who praised Drudge website for blowing Harry's cover
By PAUL REVOIR
Last updated at 10:45 01 March 2008
Jon Snow faced a backlash yesterday after attacking the British media for agreeing to a news blackout.
Angry viewers bombarded the Channel 4 website after the newsreader said journalists should have reported Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan - even if it put lives at risk.
In a mass email on Thursday afternoon, Snow praised the Drudge Report - the American website which broke the news and forced the Ministry of Defence to confirm it.
He wrote: "I never thought I'd find myself saying 'thank God for Drudge'.
"Editors have been sworn to secrecy over Prince Harry being sent to fight in Afghanistan three months ago.
"Drudge has blown their cover. One wonders whether viewers, readers and listeners will ever want to trust media bosses again.
"Or perhaps this was a courageous editorial decision to protect this fine young man?"
He continued to question the blackout during the Channel 4 bulletin at 7pm - despite the fact that his employers, like the rest of the British media, had agreed to abide by it.
The end of the news embargo has resulted in Harry's return home and Snow's comments yesterday provoked a furious response from military figures, former royal aides and the viewers of his programme.
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Colonel Jorge Mendonca, who served in Iraq, said: "What planet is he living on?
"This whole deal with the media has been a pragmatic success.
"As the BBC has pointed out, they have similar arrangements when the Prime Minister visits a warzone. That's to enable him to do his job safely, just as this deal has done."
Snow stood by the comments yesterday in an interview with Radio 4's Today programme.
He said: "There was absolute control over where to put Prince Harry and I don't think the media had to play any part whatsoever in facilitating his arrival in Afghanistan.
"I think the decision to keep information from the viewer and listener is a very serious one and it goes to the very root of the issue of trust between the media and the consumers."
But retired Major General Patrick Cordingley, who led the Desert Rats into Iraq during the first Gulf War, said: "I have a deep respect for Jon Snow, but I did feel at this time he was off the mark.
"I applauded the media and I was amazed the silence lasted as long as it did. It certainly wasn't censorship - it was purely voluntarily."
Dickie Arbiter, a former press secretary to the Queen, added: "There was a very famous slogan: Careless Talk Cost Lives.
"It seems like someone probably resurrected that with Harry going to Afghanistan and came to a very apt arrangement."
Snow's comments prompted fierce debate among his viewers, some of whom claimed they will now boycott the show.
Channel 4 said it had 91 telephone complaints and watchdog Ofcom received four.
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Whistleblower: Matt Drudge broke a deal keeping Harry's deployment to Helmand a secret
Sue Smith wrote in an e-mail to the programme: "Tonight's show talking about a 'conspiracy of silence' and the email from Jon ... is so far beyond the pale I will never watch Channel 4 News again.
"By these standards you would have been notifying Hitler of all our secrets."
Caroline McNicholas added: "Jon Snow's petulant reporting of Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan was television at its worst."
On the Channel 4 website, there was some support for the journalist.
One user wrote: "Well done to Channel 4 News. May you long continue to break controversial bits of information that you would only otherwise get online or by pointing your dish at a more democratic country's satellite."
But another countered: "Jon Snow, in one absolutely idiotic, thoughtless, stupid statement has just lost Channel 4 News one viewer. At least.
"To compare the actions of the British government and the British media with those of Russia and China is to me the height of crassness. Goodbye."
Gordon Taylor added: "Jon's line of questioning was completely wrong and, if not treachery, was utterly unhelpful."
And Andy McNab, the former SAS soldier turned author, said that if Snow disagreed with the blackout so strongly, he should have refused to abide by it.
"If it's so important, 2jump up and down in the beginning - and if you disagree with it, get out of the organisation that is doing it," he added.
"This isn't the first time the media have gone hand-in-hand in something with government."
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