Army 'held back information' over death of ITN journalist

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The British military was suspected of not being fully candid about the death in Iraq of the ITN journalist Terry Lloyd, an inquest heard yesterday.

Stewart Purvis, former chief executive of the news organisation, told the court that only "limited" information was provided by the Army about Mr Lloyd, despite repeated requests to the Defence Secretary.

"I came to the conclusion that the British military knew more about what happened at the top level than they were disclosing to us," he added.

Mr Purvis said that while looking after members of the media who had "embedded" with them, the Ministry of Defence refused to inform independent "unilateral" reporters about potentially dangerous action taking place.

"The military did not wish to take any responsibility for unilaterals, to such an extent that in a sense they wouldn't even recognise their existence," he said.

Mr Purvis said that the British military's attitude to journalists working in Baghdad was indicative of its attitude towards independent reporting of the conflict. He said: "It was pretty clear that the British Government did not want news correspondents in Baghdad. It was claimed that this was in the name of safety."

Mr Lloyd, 50, from Derby, a distinguished and experienced journalist, died on 22 March 2003. He was working with a French cameraman, Fred Nerac, and a Lebanese translator, Hussein Osman, when they are believed to have been caught in crossfire between Iraqi and US forces. Mr Osman's remains were recovered and buried, but Mr Nerac is still classified as missing.

Andrew Walker, the deputy assistant Oxford coroner, apologised for the delay in holding the inquest. He said: "I myself and others have made strenuous attempts to secure information from the US forces." No US military personnel have agreed to appear in court, and he would be reading statements from unnamed American witnesses.

He added: "It seems to me that there needs to be some way of informing unilateral teams about where troops are going to be."

The hearing continues.