I’m no big fan of the Drudge Report, a popular site run by Matt Drudge, but this I find this pretty scary, since I am a fan of free speech. The background is that the Drudge Report picked up on a story that UK Prince Harry was in Afghanistan, and that was against the agreement UK press had with the military. In other words: No one reported this, it was a sanctioned news blackout.
Well, some Australian magazine picked up the story, broke it, and Matt Drudge picked it up. At that time, Prince Harry had been at the frontline in Afghanistan for 10 weeks.
And now the Mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead demands an apology. A Councillor James Evans says:
“Matt Drudge should apologise immediately for what he has done, and we would urge other journalists to remember that what they print has a direct impact on areas of conflict. Our military needs and deserves our support.”
There has indeed been unrest among the Windsor families at home, since some people think that the enemy would go after the high profile target that Prince Harry is. I don’t know if that is merited or not, I’m not a military commander.
I do report news though, and I for one would not accept a news blackout in the first place. Who are you, whoever you are, to tell me what to report? I do agree that there is a great deal of responsibility as a writer, but that goes for everything. The fact that people wanted to read about Prince Harry is proof enough that there is public interest, something that James Evans said that there wasn’t. These are troubled times, if your prince is in Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else, wouldn’t you want to know? How would you react if he came home in a body bag? Feel deceived, I’m sure.
I don’t think Matt Drudge should apologize. It isn’t black and white, there might be very good reason why it would be dangerous if the enemy knew the Prince’s whereabouts, but obviously that isn’t a surprise to the military, so why send him in the first place, if he’s a danger to his fellow soldiers?
What do you think? Should Matt Drudge apologize? And what are the responsibilities when reporting news that could possibly hurt people?