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Fri 29 Feb 2008 04:41 PM

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Gulf media stayed silent on Prince Harry at war

Middle East media knew of prince's Afghan deployment, but honoured gag deal.

Middle East broadcasters and publishers honoured a deal struck with the UK media that kept the deployment of Britain's Prince Harry in Afghanistan a secret for 10 weeks.

Sources within Al Jazeera, Al Hayat and Gulf News said they were aware of the story, but decided against breaking the story.

Arabianbusiness.com learnt about Prince Harry's engagement before Christmas, but chose to adhere to the agreement struck with British media.

An Australian website first published a report in January on Prince Harry - who is third in line to the British throne - but the story did not spread around the world.

But yesterday, a popular US website, the Drudge Report, broke ranks and ran the news. The British Ministry of Defence immediately agreed to British media demands that they should be able to follow suit.

Newspapers, radio and television were well prepared with substantial coverage because they had been given access to Prince Harry before and during his Afghan deployment.

This was part of the deal struck to maintain a news blackout while the prince was involved in frontline duties. Middle East media outlets were not involved in these negotiations.

The UK media has had an uneasy relationship with the royal family, with many blaming it for intrusive coverage, particularly of young royals and their partners.

The news blackout that allowed Prince Harry to head to Afghanistan without alerting the Taliban to his presence could signal the start of a new era in warmer relations.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall