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UK bans military from selling stories

Story Highlights

• UK bans military service members from talking to media in return for payment
• Navy, ex-detainees under fire for permission to do book deals, interviews
• Iran video appears to refute former captives' account of psychological pressure
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The British government has banned all military service members from talking to the media in return for payment following a storm of protests over interviews with the 15 marines and sailors who were held captive in Iran.

A defense ministry spokesman told CNN on Monday that a review was announced the day before into military personnel speaking to the media in return for payment.

While this review is ongoing, a ban is in force on all personnel from speaking to the media for payment. Effectively, personnel can still talk to the media but cannot receive money in return.

The move to ban payment for interviews is not a retrospective measure so will not affect any payments made or promised to any of the 15 military personnel, a defense ministry spokesperson told CNN on Monday.

Defense Secretary Des Browne issued a statement saying the Royal Navy faced a "very tough call" over its decision to allow the sailors to receive payments for their accounts, the first of which appeared in Monday's newspapers.

Browne said lessons must be learned from the review. "I want to be sure those charged with these difficult decisions have clear guidance for the future," Browne said in his first comment about the controversy, according to The Associated Press.

"Until that time, no further service personnel will be allowed to talk to the media about their experiences in return for payment."

Meanwhile Iranian state television aired video Sunday of 15 British sailors and marines watching football on television, eating, laughing and playing ping-pong and chess during nearly two weeks in Iranian custody. (Watch Iranian video showing the British group in captivity Video)

The images, aired on Iran's Arabic-language network al-Alam, appeared to refute the former captives' account of psychological pressure. The images showed they were held "in comfort" and that they enjoyed "complete freedom" during their captivity, the network said.

While in custody, some of the detainees confessed to straying into Iranian waters while on patrol in the northern Persian Gulf -- but they recanted upon return to Britain on Thursday. (Watch disgust grow over the decision allowing them to sell their stories Video)

Their commanding officer, Royal Navy Lt. Felix Carman, said he and his crew were held in isolation from each other during their captivity, interrogated most nights and presented with two options. "If we admitted that we had strayed we would be back on a plane to the U.K. pretty soon. If we didn't, we faced up to seven years in prison," he said. (Full statement)

Those accounts were given "after 26 hours of being questioned in a military base," al-Alam said.

In an interview published Monday, the only woman among the detained crew told Britain's Sun tabloid that she feared she was being measured for a coffin while in detention, according to Reuters. (Full story)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he had ordered the release of the Britons as an Easter gift and out of respect for last week's anniversary of the Prophet Muhammed's birth.

Meanwhile, the decision by the British navy to allow the former detainees to get paid for public appearances, book deals or news interviews has raised criticism that they are getting special treatment.

"It does compare very badly with the six soldiers who were killed in Iraq this week, against the Royal Marines who are fighting a serious battle in Helmand province in Afghanistan," said retired army Col. Bob Stewart. (Watch a profile of one of them, Prince William's friend Video)

"And quite frankly, a vast part of the British armed forces think it's not fair," the former commander of British peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina said.

The British navy defended its decision, saying that permission was granted to make sure the service "had sight of what they were going to say," it said. (Full story)

"Quite aside from the 'human interest story' surrounding these individuals, there are also sensitive strategic issues in play," the Defense Ministry said in a written statement. "It was clear that the stories they had to tell were likely to have emerged via family and friends regardless of any decision the Navy took."

CNN's Matthew Chance contributed to this report.

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