Sun reporter Mazher Mahmood has accused the BBC of giving “deeply misleading reasons” for postponing the broadcast if its Panorama Investigation Fake Sheikh: Exposed.
Mahmood failed last week in a bid to stop publication of recent images of himself (which he said would undermine his safety).
- February 9, 2017
- February 3, 2017
- February 2, 2017
But last night the BBC pulled the programme less than hour before broadcast because it said it had received new information from Mahmood’s lawyers.
Mahmood said today that this new information was made available last week.
He also questioned the reliability of the testimony which he said the programme was based on.
Mahmood said in a statement: “The BBC Panorama programme ‘Fake Sheikh – Exposed’ has now been postponed twice. The reasons given by the BBC last night are deeply misleading and I am forced into making a statement to correct the impression they have given.
"The BBC approached me on 15th October and made a number of allegations against me relating to my career as an investigative journalist. As a result I instructed lawyers and they have provided detailed rebuttals and evidence showing that the allegations are unsustainable and wrong.
"I have a right to reply under the Ofcom code which I have exercised, but despite this the BBC has (during the time period given to me to reply) both publicised the fact that their programme will condemn me, called me a ‘crook’ and tweeted mocking messages. They apparently still intend to broadcast the programme although in what form at this stage I do not know.
“Contrary to claims that the BBC only received information at the last minute yesterday forcing them to evaluate new material provided, they were in fact provided the information that illustrated how the allegation they made was unsustainable at the end of last week. Yesterday afternoon and last night they were given further evidence at their request which gave further support to what we had already said. It was not new information.
“I am an investigative journalist and am as happy as anyone for the media to investigate. However I would expect them to rely upon credible sources. The BBC investigation appears to be largely based on allegations from two individuals who cannot be relied upon in particular a former News of the World photographer, Steve Grayson, and Florim Gashi.
“Grayson was sacked from the News of the World after faking photographs of the Beast of Bodmin Moor in 1999. I learned of the fake photographs and reported him to the editor resulting in Grayson’s dismissal. Grayson has blamed me for his demise ever since.”
The Leveson Inquiry heard evidence about how Grayson took a picture of a puma at Ilfracombe zoo and then removed the bars from the shot.
Mahmood said: “Grayson took the paper to an employment tribunal where he alleged that he was aware of a number of stories (not all by me) that had been fabricated. Each one was examined at the tribunal in detail and all of Grayson’s allegations were dismissed. He lost his claim for unfair dismissal.”
Mahmood claimed that since then Grayson has taken other actions against him and that he has shown the BBC that his evidence can’t be relied on.
He said: “The other ‘whistleblower’ for the BBC is Florim Gashi, a convicted fraudster, who has been thoroughly discredited as a witness on a number of occasions in the criminal courts and cannot be considered reliable. Again significant evidence has been passed to the BBC to illustrate this.
“Other witnesses they have interviewed include individuals who have been properly convicted by the courts of offences where I have exposed criminality. They are not independent and again I have pointed out in detail to the BBC why no reliance should be placed upon them.
“The BBC proposes to broadcast, it would appear whatever the evidence shows, a programme designed to condemn my career as an investigatory journalist. They are doing so while there is an active investigation being carried out by the Metropolitan Police into the collapse of the Contostavlos trial. I am cooperating fully with the police inquiry and have not been arrested.
"However because a decision will be taken shortly on whether any proceeding should be brought, the BBC has been asked by the Attorney General of England and Wales to consider delaying the broadcast to wait on any decision to prosecute, so as not to prejudice any proceedings should they be brought. They are ignoring this and seem hell bent on broadcasting, whatever effect it may have. This is deeply irresponsible and not in the public interest or in the interests of justice, but unfortunately in line with the attitude they are taking around their programme in general.
“I hope the BBC will see sense and postpone any broadcast until the conclusion of any proceedings. I hope then that they will review and consider the evidence properly (and not threaten broadcast without the full facts) and stop the broadcast. This may be a vain hope. They are determined to condemn me whatever the truth.
“In the meantime if they do go ahead I would ask anyone interested to keep an open mind on any allegations they do indeed make.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “We have nothing further to say. We will let our programme speak for itself when we broadcast it.”