Andrew Gilligan is one ex-BBC journalist I have a lot of time for. He started off as a rather left of centre commentator who had his life changing baptism late on in his career when, as a journalist on BBC’s Radio 4, he reported on The Today Programme that a British government briefing paper on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction (the September Dossier) had been ‘sexed up’. His report was based on a private meeting (undisclosed in his report) with respected scientist, former UN weapons inspector, and current UK Ministry of Defence weapons inspector Dr David Kelly.
He watched as the UK government released the now discredited February Dossier on WMDs (aka the dodgy dossier), watched as the US and UK went to war in Iraq, watched with horror as the MoD saw fit to release the name of Dr David Kelly who was grilled under oath, and who two days later was found dead – presumed an act of suicide.
So he has form as a journalist who has tried to uncover the truth, suffered at the hands of government, looked tragedy in the eye. That’s why his analysis of the lobby group Hacked Off that has had such an impact on UK press censorship is worth reading.
He makes two very succinct points of blatant hypocrisy on the part of Hacked Off:
Firstly: How did they achieve such power? Their recommendations were all but cut and pasted into Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations and then pushed into legislation. Here’s the blatant hypocrisy. For a lobby groups that wants to curtail the power of the press, Gilligan makes the point: “Hacked Off did it by using all the red-top tricks they claim to hate – broad-brush condemnations, simplistic arguments, distorted facts, behind-the-scenes political deal making, celebrity stardust and the emotive deployment of victims.”
Second: Why won’t the lobby group Hacked Off release details of their funders? On their website, you can find one mention in the concluding paragraph of an article:
“We do not regret accepting money to fund our activities from some people who did not want their donations made public. We understand and respect their desire to avoid the kind of hostile treatment that has been dished out to people who openly criticise the press, and we are grateful to them for their generosity. We are grateful too, to the very many generous people who have given money openly. We have been open from the outset about our funding.”
So apart from jaded Four Weddings and a Funeral actor Hugh Grant – who got rather tetchy when criticised by Jon Stewart, and a fallacious claim on its website that it is “due to receive soon” more than £20,000 from the Journalism Foundation – a foundation which closed down last year, Hacked Off seems to be funded by a group of rich people who want to avoid scrutiny by the media.
We wonder why?