Broadcasters summoned for 'propaganda' talks

War against terrorism: Downing Street
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Broadcasters will be called into Downing Street for a "war propaganda" summit this week amid fears that Osama bin Laden is sending secret signals to his terror network through video messages.

Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications, and his two official spokesmen will discuss the issue with the heads of news at the BBC, ITN and Sky.

In an indication of the likely tone of the talks, Sky and the BBC said yesterday they were already pursuing a responsible agenda and their coverage did nothing to encourage terrorism. ITN was due to give its response today and confirm whether it intended to send a representative to Number 10.

Meanwhile the Government stressed its concern about "propaganda". Mr Campbell has already dubbed the terrorist leader "Spin Laden" for his ability to manipulate world opinion, while government concerns over al-Qa'ida videos were heightened yesterday after the group warned Americans and Britons, "especially Muslims, children and all those who oppose US policy", to avoid using planes or high buildings.

The latest message, on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV station featuring Mr bin Laden's spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, claimed that "the storm of hijacked planes" would not abate until the strikes ended and Palestine was liberated.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, said the video amounted to an indisputable admission of guilt for the 11 September atrocities.

Downing Street said the al-Qa'ida videos underlined worries about the media's approach to the Afghanistan conflict. It is also concerned at the reporting of Mr Blair's movements and the need for journalists not to be taken in by the Taliban's claims.

A Downing Street source said there was no need for "confrontation" with the media. "It's not about wanting to 'get at' the broadcasters. It's about saying there are legitimate issues raised at a time of conflict which are not part of the normal government-broadcaster relationship," he said.

"We have to be very suspicious when an organisation such as al-Qa'ida is spread across the world and these videos are one way of getting a message to their members."

Time magazine reported yesterday that US officials believed Mr bin Laden's taped broadcast on the first day of the air strikes contained a coded warning to start more attacks. A former al-Qa'ida follower now working for American intelligence said the use of the phrase "I swear to God" could be a trigger to further atrocities.

The Government will step up its own war propaganda efforts today when ministers use the first day of the new session of Parliament to tell MPs of plans for emergency measures against terrorism.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, will make statements on forthcoming legislation to tighten laws on extradition, money laundering and asset seizure.

* Qatar's Al-Jazeera television station said yesterday that one of its correspondents has been detained at Geneva airport.

It said Ahmad Kamel, a correspondent in Brussels who travels on a passport from Belgium, had flown to Switzerland to compile a report on the World Trade Organisation but had been denied entry by Swiss immigration authorities.

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