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Armed forces pledge alarms Reuters journalists

Reuters journalists have expressed dismay and concern that Thomson Reuters has signed a covenant pledging to support members of the British armed forces.

A message to staff by Mark Sandham, senior vice president and chief operating officer, human resources, and Lucinda Case, head of legal professionals, Europe who signed the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the company, said: "We are proud of the UK’s rich military heritage and those who have bravely continued to serve and defend our country".


Journalists at Reuters, the news division of Thomson Reuters, said that while individuals were free to support members of the armed forces through donations it was totally inappropriate for an organisation proud of its record of independence and impartiality to sign up as a company and could endanger colleagues working in countries hostile to the UK. It seemed contrary to the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles, some said. 


The journalists, who spoke on condition they would not be identified, said Reuters hard-earned reputation as an unbiased independent news organisation, which is central to its commercial appeal, depends on it keeping a distance from any government or pressure group. Correspondents working in authoritarian countries have spent decades underlining their independence and absence of links to the British or American governments despite constant accusations that they are spies or working for a state propaganda agency.


Veteran correspondents also said that in parts of the world where they had worked, the British army may not be seen as an unalloyed force for good. They called for the initiative to be rescinded, but their concerns seem to have been greeted with incomprehension by senior executives in jobs outside editorial. 


The Covenant describes itself as “a pledge that together we acknowledge and understand that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives.”


It pledges Thomson Reuters to “commit to honour the Armed Forces Covenant and support the Armed Forces Community. We recognise the value Serving Personnel, both Regular and Reservists, Veterans and military families contribute to our business and our country.”


It states: “We Thomson Reuters will endeavour in our business dealings to uphold the key principles of the Armed Forces Covenant…” and says the company will “publicise these commitments through our literature and/or on our website, setting out how we will seek to honour them and inviting feedback from the Service community and our customers on how we are doing.”


Thomson Reuters Armed Forces Covenant ■