Dimbleby backs Bowen

The TV and radio presenter Jonathan Dimbleby has leapt to the defence of the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Complaints of inaccuracy and bias against Mr Bowen were partially upheld last month by the editorial standards committee (ESC) of the BBC Trust. They related to an online article about the Six-Day War and a radio broadcast about an Israeli settlement. The committee rejected other complaints after taking the views of historians Sir Martin Gilbert and Professor Avi Shlaim.

Complants were made by Jonathan Turner, a London lawyer and Zionist Federation member; and Gilead Ini, a research analyst at the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (Camra) in America.

Now Mr Dimbleby, chair of Index On Censorship, which claims on its website to be “Britain’s leading organisation promoting freedom of expression”, has accused the BBC Trust of a “blundering response” which had “sullied” Mr Bowen’s “hard-won reputation”.

The broadcaster criticised the make-up of the ESC, saying only one of its six members, chairman Richard Tait, had a track record as a senior news executive, and dismissed the complaints as “a phrase here, a qualification there”. He also praised the fact that BBC executives “have not only defended Bowen all the way through, but they have conspicuously failed to endorse the Trust’s verdict”.

At one point, Mr Dimbleby said: “The lies and distortions that have been constructed around the report have gone half-way round the world while the truth has yet to get its boots on.”

In a web comment after Mr Dimbleby’s article, Mr Turner wrote: “I think that it is unfortunate that Mr Dimbleby did not consult me before publishing this piece. Had he done so and reviewed the full file of papers which I have, I think he would have realised that there are strong grounds for saying that the BBC Trust should have gone much further in its criticism of the Bowen article and report.”

    Last updated: 10:46am, May 14 2009