Next step Europe in lawyer’s BBC bias battle

By Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, December 11, 2008

A lawyer is considering the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as his last legal option in a two-year campaign to force the BBC to publish its 2004 report investigating its Middle Eastern coverage.

Steven Sugar is waiting to hear the House of Lords’ judgement on his latest attempt to force publication of the Balen Report, written by BBC senior editor Malcolm Balen.

But if the Law Lords reject his appeal, the Putney solicitor says he “will certainly consider” taking the case to Strasbourg.

Mr Sugar said: “There is every indication that the BBC wants to fight this,” adding: “Parliament might want to re-consider its freedom of information laws.”

The BBC has spent up to half a million pounds of licence payers’ money on lawyers in its determination to keep the report secret, while Mr Sugar has spent two years working on the case. The significance, he says, is that it might reveal a BBC anti-Israel bias.

The corporation has so far relied on a legal loophole in the Freedom of Information Act, which says information does not have to be shared if it is for “journalism, art
or literature”.

Last updated: 1:44pm, December 11 2008