Gilligan: defended by Wilkinson
The man charged by the Government with advising the media on national security matters has spoken up in defence of Andrew Gilligan’s role in the “dodgy dossier” affair.
Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson has just stepped down after five years as secretary of the D-Notice Committee.
In the latest edition of the British Journalism Review he has hit back at criticisms levelled at Gilligan, also in the pages of BJR, by former head of BBC news Richard Sambrook.
The BBC executive condemned flaws in Gilligan’s Today programme report which alleged the Government had sexed up its dossier of evidence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Sambrook said: “I am not one of those who argue that Andrew Gilligan was ‘mainly right’.
“In journalism ‘mainly right’ is like half pregnant -it’s an unsustainable condition.”
Wilkinson, who has been uniquely placed at the heart of the security and media communities, said: “Were no journalist, even of the BBC, never to publish until he was certain that he was more than ‘mainly right’, little would be revealed to the public of what was going on behind the politico-official screen…”
He said Sambrook’s “half-pregnant” analogy was inappropriate and added: “As with those in secret intelligence, when things are moving fast half the picture is usually all the media are going to be allowed to see immediately…
“In this case, we now know (and were fairly certain then) that Andrew Gilligan was more ‘mainly right’ than the US/UK political leadership was.”
Wilkinson said: “There were indeed faults in almost every faction involved in the Hutton and Butler inquiries, but the more fundamental underlying cause of the whole government/media debacle was the downward spiral of the relationship over the preceding decade. For me it has been like having a ringside seat at an unrefereed wrestling match, with both the Government and media teams resorting to increasingly low fouls, and becoming so obsessed with each other that they have become oblivious to the boos of those members of the public still watching.”
Wilkinson has been replaced as secretary of the DA-Notice Committee by Air Vice Marshal Andrew Vallance.
Any journalist seeking his advice on a story involving national security can contact him on 0208416 3524, mobile 07855 368958.
By Dominic Ponsford