Saturday 18 December 2021

Redacted distracted

Catching up with what's been happening this week, I see that investigative journalist Andy Webb is still doggedly pursuing the BBC over Bashirgate, using FoI requests against the tight-lipped broadcaster. He wrote in The Times this week about how “even now the BBC is fighting tooth and nail to prevent the exposure of documents which suggest a much more recent attempt to obscure aspects of the scandal.”

To sum up the present state of play between him and the BBC, the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that the BBC had breached the Freedom of Information Act and threatened the corporation with contempt of court proceedings. So the BBC released lots of already publicly available news clippings and a handful of “almost entirely redacted” emails between senior BBC executives from late last year!

Nonetheless, one detail did emerge which piqued his interest:
In an email of October 31, 2020, Bashir replies to questions posed by his boss, the executive editor Richard Burgess, concerning the “Diana note”. On November 13 Burgess emails a group of BBC bigwigs, including the company secretary, Phil Harrold, for which we have just the intriguing title: “Here are the notes from my conversation with Martin Bashir today . . .” Yet on November 7 Harrold had briefed the BBC board in an email: “. . . we are unable to discuss any of this with Martin Bashir, as he remains seriously unwell”. The board may have cause to wonder whether there’s something they missed?
Andy Webb has appealed against “the BBC’s heavy censorship of the disclosed documents” and has a second FoI request awaiting a ruling by the ICO. He says:
It is a painstaking process, winkling documents from the BBC in this way, yet it was a single document released to me in October 2020 that ignited the fury of Diana’s brother Earl Spencer and ultimately led to the setting up of the Dyson inquiry. I suspect there is more to come and that there are tough questions which the BBC has yet to face on how current bosses attempted to manage the scandal only 12 months ago.

I wish him luck. 

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