BBC in Turmoil | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 31.01.2004
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BBC in Turmoil

The British broadcaster has been thrown into disarray following the Hutton report this week as reporter Andrew Gilligan became the latest to quit. Outraged staff fear the BBC's “rigorous journalism” is under siege.


BBC staff are rallying to the support of former boss, Greg Dyke.

The row over the Hutton report this week, which exonerated the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair of any wrongdoing in the suicide of former weapons expert Kelly but strongly rebuked the BBC, continues to blaze in the offices of the world’s best known broadcasting service.

On Saturday, indignant BBC staff were calling for a renewed enquiry into Britain’s case for war in Iraq even as they defended their former bosses. Hundreds of BBC employees paid for a full-page newspaper advert to air their frustrations. "Greg Dyke stood for brave, independent and rigorous BBC journalism that was fearless in its search for the truth," they said of the BBC’s former director general, who resigned a day after Wednesday’s Hutton report.

BBC chairman of the board of governors Gavyn Davies also stepped down on Wednesday, while investigative reporter Andrew Gilligan, whose controversial broadcast accusing the government of "sexing up" the threat from former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in an intelligence dossier, quit on Friday.

"We are resolute that the BBC should not step back from its determination to investigate the facts in pursuit of the truth," the advert added. Many of the BBC staff walked out in protest at offices of the broadcaster across Britain.

Anti-war campaigners were to protest outside Blair’s offices on Saturday over what they called Hutton’s "whitewash."

Hutton absolves Blair

Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan from the BBC

U.K. Judge Lord Hutton said on Wednesday that claims inserted by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan (photo) in his broadcast that the British government had doctored intelligence in a controversial dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were "unfounded."

Government scientist and weapons expert at the British Ministry of Defense Kelly was the anonymous source for Gilligan’s story and committed suicide when his name was made public. Lord Hutton added that no one could be help responsible for Kelly’s suicide.

"I am satisfied that Kelly took his own life by cutting his left wrist," Lord Hutton said on Wednesday, adding there could be no way to foresee the public pressure put on the scientist would cause him to take his life.

Tony Blair wartet auf dem Hutton Rapport

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair

For British Premier Tony Blair, the clean bill given him by the Hutton report has provided him with a much-needed respite as he has fended off sharp criticism from the media as well as the opposition conservatives for his alleged role in Kelly’s suicide. Blair's popularity has also dipped to record lows ever since the Kelly affair first surfaced.

BBC blasted

However, Hutton said BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan was wrong to say that to beef up an otherwise lackluster dossier, the government had intentionally included a now questionable claim that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were deployable in 45 minutes.

"The reality was that the 45-minute claim was based on an intelligence report the Secret Intelligence Service considered to be reliable," Hutton said.

In his 328-page report, Hutton also lambasted the BBC’s supervisory system as "defective" and said Gilligan had unfairly attacked the government’s integrity without properly backing up the charges.

"Victim of a grave injustice"

Though the BBC has accepted that Gilligan’s report had errors, many within the broadcaster are upset at what they see as Hutton’s scathing criticism of the BBC as opposed to the kid-gloved handling of the government’s role.

"If Lord Hutton had fairly considered the evidence he heard, he would have concluded that most of my story was right. The government did sex up the dossier, transforming possibilities and probabilities into certainties, removing vital caveats," Gilligan said in his resignation statement." He added, "Some of my story was wrong... But the BBC collectively has been the victim of a grave injustice."

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