Dear Mr Damazer,
A news report on BBC Breakfast this morning (approximately 8.20am) mentioned briefly that a cameraman working for the Arab satellite channel, al-Jazeera, was killed while he was filming fighting between US and Iraqi troops.
It appears from other reports (eg Reuters) that the al-Jazeera cameraman, Tareq Ayyoub, actually died when US forces bombed the al-Jazeera office in Baghdad. I hope you agree that this is quite a different proposition to what was reported on BBC Breakfast, especially, when we recall that during the war against Afghanistan in 2001 the United States also bombed the al-Jazeera office in Kabul. This time round, the al-Jazeera station had pointedly given the exact locations of their offices in Basra, Baghdad and Mosul to the United States so that there could be no lame excuse of 'mistaken targetting'.
On another point, many British Muslims have contacted us to express concern that the BBC has not devoted enough coverage to the dreadful humanitarian situation in Basra. We understand that you did not have a camera crew there initially, but al-Jazeera did. Is there a reason why some of al-Jazeera's footage about the deaths and injuries to Iraqi civilians in Basra was not relayed on the BBC? We notice that the BBC seems quite willing to relay pictures of attacks on Baghdad from Abu Dhabi TV.
Mr Inayat Bunglawala,
The Muslim Council of Britain
Response from Mark Damazar, 9 April
Dear Mr Bunglawala
I've now had a chance to follow up on our exchange of emails yesterday. I'm afraid that Breakfast did make a mistake in the short item at 0820 when it said that Al-Jazeera was reporting that one of its cameraman had been killed while filming. It was a one-off mistake in a fast-moving programme and both earlier and later in the programme Breakfast did report that Al-Jazeera was saying its Baghdad office had been hit and one of its cameramen killed. This was an unfortunate error made by a member of production staff on an exceptionally busy morning. Not only did we have the Al Jazeera story yesterday, but we had the American tanks in action in the centre of Baghdad and more breaking news in Basra. Meanwhile significant space was given to the Al Jazeera story throughout the day, including a full report on the Ten O'Clock News.
As regards Basra, we have covered the humanitarian crisis extensively and will continue to do so. We have used Al Jazeera footage throughout the conflict and there is no policy to down-play Al-Jazeera pictures.