LONDON (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp on Wednesday pulled out of a pledge to support members of the British armed forces in order to "preserve the safety and neutrality of our reporters" after complaints from some current and former Reuters staff that it would compromise the news agency's reputation for independence.
Thomson Reuters, the Toronto-based parent of Reuters, on Aug. 31 signed the British Armed Forces Covenant https://www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk, which pledges to help and support those currently serving in the British armed forces as well as veterans and their families.
After Thomson Reuters' support for the covenant became public, a number of current and former Reuters journalists said the pledge called into question the impartiality of the global news agency, which is obliged by the Trust Principles https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en/about-us/trust-principles.html to act at all times with integrity, independence and freedom from bias.
They also raised concerns that the pledge could endanger reporters working in certain countries because the agency could be cast as supportive of Britain's armed forces or of its foreign policy.
"We have decided we must withdraw our signature to preserve the safety and neutrality of our reporters," a Thomson Reuters spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "The covenant is not affiliated with any political party and the initiative was signed with the best intentions, but our participation led to concerns that such a public pledge could undermine the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles and compromise the newsroom's independence and safety of our journalists."
The Armed Forces Covenant says it "supports serving personnel, service leavers, veterans, and their families."
The British defence ministry says the covenant demonstrates an organisation's "intention to support the Armed Forces community". A spokesman for the ministry declined immediate comment on the withdrawal by Thomson Reuters.
Thomson Reuters said it signed the covenant as "an extension of our longstanding support" for Britain's poppy appeal, in which tens of millions of people buy a red paper or metal poppy to remember the war dead and help armed forces families.
It said the decision to withdraw did not affect its commitment to being an inclusive organisation that supports people from all backgrounds, including military veterans.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Nick Tattersall)