Court stops solicitor publishing report on BBC Middle East bias

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Steven Sugar, the London solicitor battling to force the BBC to release a report into its Middle East coverage, says his latest legal defeat does not spell the end of his campaign.

On Wednesday, the Appeal Court rejected his latest call for the 2004 Balen Report to be made available.

Mr Sugar, who first applied to the Information Commissioner early in 2005 and has since fought several court actions, described the decision as "very disappointing. It's a very unbalanced judgment".

But he added: "It is not the final round. We are contemplating an appeal to the Supreme Court. There is a possibility of taking the matter to the European Court of Human Rights."

Former Nine O'Clock News editor Malcolm Balen was asked to review the BBC's reporting of the Middle East.
His recommendations led to the new post of Middle East editor, filled by Jeremy Bowen.

Although the BBC is bound by the Freedom of Information Act, it
is exempt when the documents are for the purposes of "journalism, art or literature".

Four years ago the Information Tribunal backed Mr Sugar, arguing that the report should be made public because it was being held not solely for reasons of journalism but also as part of a broader strategic review of its coverage of the Middle East. But the BBC successfully contested the decision.

This week Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, who sat with Lord Justices Moses and Munby, noted: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, but it can also burn, and when it comes to information held by the BBC for the purposes of journalism, it seems to me that the legislative policy is that the risk of burning outweighs the benefit of disinfectant."

Last updated: 12:00pm, October 15 2010