End of the line: bid to see BBC's Balen Report is rejected

By Jessica Elgot, February 16, 2012
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The late Steven Sugar

The late Steven Sugar

The Supreme Court will not force the BBC to reveal a report on its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This week, the court's five justices unanimously dismissed the appeal of solicitor Steven Sugar, who had challenged the Corporation under the Freedom of Information Act to release the 2004 report, compiled by the BBC's senior editorial consultant, Malcolm Balen.

Mr Sugar, described as a "respected solicitor and supporter of the state of Israel", had fought the case since 2005. He died of cancer in January last year. His widow, psychologist Fiona Paveley, and Mr Sugar's former firm, Forsters, took on the case.

The BBC had argued it was exempt from releasing the report because it was "for the purposes of journalism, literature or art," a Freedom of Information Act loophole.

Four of the five judges ruled that the report was beyond the scope of the Act, even if information was held only "partly for the purposes of journalism."

Lord Wilson ruled that, if information was held "predominantly" for the purposes of journalism, it was outside the scope of the act, and he judged that to be the case with the Balen Report.

The BBC said in a statement: "We welcome the Supreme Court's judgment, which upholds the rulings of other courts in this case, and will ensure that the BBC is afforded the space to conduct its journalistic activities freely.

"Independent journalism requires honest and open internal debate free from external pressures. This ruling enables us to continue to do that."

In 2005, the Information Tribunal ordered the BBC to to release the report. But the order was overturned by the High Court, and that decison was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

    Last updated: 1:36pm, February 16 2012