BBC told to publish why governors apologized over Iraq report
The BBC has been ordered to publish secret documents that will reveal why its governors apologized to the government over broadcasting that ministers exaggerated the claim over Iraq's weapons before the 2003 war, a press report said on Wednesday.
In a landmark ruling Tuesday, the freedom of information tribunal ruled the corporation should publish confidential minutes of a governors' meeting held after the BBC was criticized in a 2004 report on the death of former Iraq arms inspector David Kelly.
Following the meeting, the governor issued an apology to Prime Minister Tony Blair's office that led to the resignation of BBC director general Greg Dykes, who said it was 'abject, embarrassing and unjustified'.
The minutes are expected to show which governors voted to force out Dykes and why and who on the board sanctioned the controversial apology.
The inquiry into Kelly's death chaired by former judge Lord Hutton confirmed that the former arms inspector was the source of a disputed BBC report that claimed ministers exaggerated Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war.
But in his report, Hutton exonerated the government of any wrong- doings and criticized the quality of the BBC's reporting on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which led to a row between Blair's office and the state-funded broadcaster.
According to the Guardian newspaper, which led the application for the minutes to be published under Britain's Freedom of Information Act, the BBC has resisted in disclosing the confidential documents for more than two years.
The BBC was said to have argued that minutes of all governors' meetings should remain secret as the governors would feel afraid of expressing their real opinions if they knew that these accounts would be published.
But the tribunal agreed with the Guardian's argument that the governors' meeting after the Hutton report was a 'unique and highly unusual' event in the BBC's history.
In response to the ruling, the BBC said it was considering its options on whether to hand over the documents as ordered, within 28 days, or try to overturn the verdict at the high court.