BBC wins bid to keep journalism secret

The BBC today successfully fended off a Court of Appeal bid to force it to make public the Balen report, an internal review of its reporting in the Middle East.

Commercial solicitor Steven Sugar, of Putney, London, has waged a two-year battle arguing that the report should be available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

He claimed it should be published in the light of allegations that the BBC has shown bias against Israel. His claim was backed by the Information Tribunal, but the High Court allowed an appeal by the BBC and ruled that the case fell outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

The BBC is only required to make disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act if it holds the the material being requested for purposes other than “journalism, art or literature”.

Sugar appealed, but today Lord Justices Buxton, Lord Justice Lloyd and Sir Paul Kennedy backed the High Court ruling.

Sugar is considering taking his case to the highest court in the land, the House of Lords, where he would argue that the Act was badly drafted and preents disclosure of material which should be available in the public interest.

The BBC maintains that it is vital for independent journalism that internal staff debates on news coverage should not be open to public scrutiny.

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