Moore and The Daily Telegraph: prepared for legal fight with Galloway
The Daily Telegraph is now sifting through a file of 1,000 documents its correspondent in Baghdad, David Blair, found in the Iraqi foreign ministry and which yielded him his scoop on MP George Galloway.
Editor Charles Moore has categorically denied to Press Gazette that Blair was led to the file in the burning and damaged building by a tip-off. Moore said: “Nobody tipped him off and nobody guided him. It was a classic piece of good, professional journalism.
“We had realised before the war that there would be files in offices that would be interesting and might show contacts with politicians. When our correspondents reached Baghdad, I asked the foreign editor to ask them to look out for such papers and files.”
Blair entered a scene of great chaos in the foreign ministry but with the help of his translator, it was not so difficult to identify the files marked Britain, Moore explained.
“So he walked away with them and, as well as getting his translator to translate them, he got another translator, unconnected with the first, to make sure there was no possibility of anyone misleading him.”
He wouldn’t have known at the time that the file contained the documents on Galloway which allege the Glasgow MP was accepting money from Saddam’s regime – at least £375,000 a year. These are allegations Galloway has strenuously denied and says he will sue the Telegraph.
“It seems to me like good detective work, good journalistic nous,” said Moore of Blair’s find. “It certainly is luck but it was skill too, because he had the wit to go there and look hard.”
Moore believes the Telegraph’s case is helped by the fact that on Monday, the day it broke the Galloway story, it also ran stories about documents found on contacts between the Iraqi regime and a clergyman, with Lord Waverley and Edward Heath and the report of a meeting between Robin Cook and the Russian foreign minister.
Of those four stories, three had already been confirmed, said Moore.
“All these documents were in the same boxes [as the Galloway papers] and help to indicate that they are authentic,” Moore maintained.
As far as the Telegraph was concerned, this established a prima facie case for printing the allegations against Galloway in the public interest.
“It is not possible to know whether the Iraqi who wrote the original document that we printed is precise in every detail but our concern is the public interest in showing what we believe to be authentic documents of the Iraqi regime,” said Moore.
“It has been suggested that an intelligence service planted the documents as a forgery. If they had done, it would have been extraordinary behaviour because they could have had absolutely no guarantee that this forgery would be found. Nobody was controlling what was in the building so, if a British journalist hadn’t come along and found it, no one would have known of this great forgery.”
Moore confirmed that the Telegraph had received a preliminary letter from Galloway’s solicitors, Davenport Lyons, denying the allegations and wanting sight of the documents.
The paper was prepared to enter a legal fight, he added.
By Jean Morgan