NEWS RELEASE

2nd February 2004

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has joined other media industry organisations in condemning the Hutton Report for “whitewashing the Government’s role in the Kelly affair.

It is clear, from the evidence put before Lord Hutton, that mistakes were made by both the government and the BBC in their handling of this affair, yet Hutton fails to make any criticism of the Government whatsoever.

Lord Hutton’s criticism of Gilligan centres largely on his mistake – made in one live two-way interview – to suggest that the Government knew the ‘45 minute’ claim was probably wrong at the time the WMD dossier was published. But the length at which he goes to criticise Gilligan’s error threatens to overshadow what was otherwise a robust and largely true piece of investigative reporting. Suffice to say that, if it had not been for this story the public would probably never know that Downing Street did have some hand in shaping the way in which the WMD dossier was worded by the JIC. They would probably not know that the intelligence services were put under pressure from the Government to find more and harder evidence against Saddam Hussain in order to build the strongest possible case against him. And that maybe, due to the haste in securing new information and entering it into the dossier, this could well have led to the insertion of shaky intelligence, which falls apart under closer scrutiny.

Dominic Cooper, General Secretary of the Institute, said: “Many of us were surprised by Hutton’s decision to give the Government, in effect, a clean bill of health, when it was obvious during the enquiry hearings that Ministers and Downing Street officials had indeed sought to influence the way in which the report on WMDs in Iraq was presented, and in this way to manipulate media and public opinion.”

The BBC’s right to run this story should be defended. It has reaffirmed the position of journalism as the fourth estate of any good democracy, and demonstrated that when needed to, it will uphold its role as a public service broadcaster.

The Institute “believes strongly in the independence of the BBC and we will work alongside other media organisations to defend the BBC’s traditions and the preservation of the public service ethic,” Mr Cooper added.

-Ends

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