We were deeply saddened when UK lawyer Steven Sugar died in January of this year. Sugar had campaigned tirelessly in the courts to force the BBC to publicly release the Balen Report – the corporation’s own investigation into whether it held an anti-Israel bias.
The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money in the courts trying to prevent its publication. However, despite numerous legal setbacks and the death of Sugar, the Daily Telegraph reports that Sugar’s widow has taken upon herself to continue the legal challenge to the BBC:
Mr Sugar lost at the Information Tribunal, the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but his legal team – who have waived their fees – are hopeful of success in the Supreme Court.
Mrs Paveley said: “I used to tease Steven about his obsession with fighting this so I think he would have a wry smile that I’m carrying it on, but I couldn’t let it drop.”
Mr Sugar, a solicitor, first asked the BBC to publish the Balen Report in 2005 under the Freedom of Information Act and refused to accept the BBC’s argument that it was outside the Act’s scope.
The corporation successfully argued in the past that the report should not be released because it was held for “the purposes of journalism, art or literature” and, as such, was exempt. It was commissioned to analyse the BBC’s coverage of Middle East issues and make recommendations for improvement.
Mrs Paveley, a 48-year-old clinical psychologist, was approached by her husband’s lawyers after he died. They explained that the case could only continue if he was represented at court.
“I knew immediately that I wasn’t going to abandon it,” she says. “It would have almost felt like a betrayal to let all his hard work go to waste. He never gave up, so why should I?”
Mrs Paveley said that she and her late husband saw an anti-Israeli bias in the reporting of Orla Guerin, the BBC’s former Middle East correspondent, who was accused of anti-Semitism in 2004 by the Israeli government.
Mrs Paveley said: “Steven thought that reporting should be balanced. As a publicly-funded body, it seems wrong that the BBC is afraid and reluctant to be more transparent.”
HonestReporting has been calling for many years for the BBC to release the Balen Report after our own Freedom of Information request was rejected.
We wish Fiona Paveley every success in the continuation of this important battle.