LONDON: A war journalist for the BBC who narrowly escaped death in Syria is suing the news corporation, saying she was bullied into risking her life for no good reason.
Natalie Morton, 44, was a news producer working alongside Lyse Doucet, one of the BBC’s top war journalists, when a stray mortar round landed near her car in Homs, Syria, in 2014.
Morton suffered minor wounds when her vehicle was showered with shrapnel — another member of her team was seriously injured — but she now says she has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the incident.
She has filed a complaint for £150,000 ($192,845), saying her PTSD means she can no longer watch the news, let alone work as a journalist or war reporter.
She says Doucet, an Emmy award-winning war reporter and filmmaker, had bullied her into coming with her on the “unnecessary” trip to Homs.
Morton’s barrister says Doucet was “angry” at her for refusing a previous dangerous assignment, and “intimidated and pressurized” her into taking the journey to Homs.
The BBC’s legal team denies liability or that Morton was forced into the assignment, and said she is an experienced war reporter who willingly traveled to Homs.
“The claimant had total discretion on where and how to work, did not take instructions from Ms. Doucet, and was experienced in conflict zones,” said David Platt, the BBC’s lawyer for the case.
“She had applied for the job knowing that she would be exposed to an element of risk given the high probability that she would visit hostile environments.”
The incident occurred outside a camp for internally displaced persons in Homs, in which Doucet was filming for a documentary. Parts of Homs still saw intermittent conflict, but was not being fiercely contested at that time.
Morton’s legal team also say the BBC failed to “limit loiter time” on the shoot, which took over four hours.
But Platt said Morton chose to remain in her vehicle and work from there despite being “expressly advised” by her driver not to stay.
“It was her decision to remain in the vehicle and work from there. She was sufficiently relaxed not to wear her PPE (personal protective equipment) — including body armor and helmet,” he said.
When approached for comment, the BBC told Arab News that it cannot discuss ongoing legal issues.