World Service dropped report on piracy after Foreign Office request
• Journalists protest at threat to independence
• Network says decision was made for sake of hostages
* Leigh Holmwood
* The Guardian, Thursday December 4 2008
The BBC has been accused of putting the independence of the World Service at risk after agreeing to pull an episode of the series From Our Own Correspondent following a request from the Foreign Office.
Angry World Service staff and union officials said the decision to withdraw the programme, about the Somalia pirate hijackings, could "seriously damage" the Foreign Office-funded operation's reputation for independent journalism.
The programme, about how reporter Mary Harper was able to speak to the pirates holding the Sirius Star and its captain, had been broadcast on Radio 4 and 48 times on the World Service network before the Foreign Office intervention on Sunday.
Sources said the FCO had asked for the programme to be pulled as it claimed that after each broadcast the phonelines to the Sirius Star were blocked by callers - even though the number was not aired - and that it was hampering efforts by Saudi Arabia to end the hijack...more