The latest issue of Private Eye carries the following article, under the headline Source sauce, about the BBC’s recent tawdry scoop on Abdelbaset’s private life.
The BBC has failed to protect its journalistic sources over its recent “revelation” about Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, and his trips to Malta for sex. The claim was attributed to “previously secret documents, seen by BBC Scotland” – ie the report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission which concluded that the Libyan may have been wrongly convicted. But the Beeb is now accused of breaching the trust of the man who gave the information to programme-makers to satisfy lawyers’ concerns over last month’s BBC Scotland documentary on the case. John Ashton, author and researcher for Megrahi’s defence team, says that when he was asked by the BBC if it could release more of the document, he specifically forbade it by phone and in writing, saying that doing so would betray the key source of its documentary.
BBC Scotland’s home affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson used it anyway to “reveal” how Megrahi had told his defence lawyers that as an airline worker he could fly in and out of Malta without a passport, enabling him to travel undetected – as documented by Ashton in his book, Megrahi: You Are My Jury. (The secret lover was omitted because of sensitivity towards Megrahi’s wife.)
Alderson’s article on the BBC news website said that “lawyers had realised if the original trial had known how easily Megrahi could travel undetected to Malta it could have strengthened the prosecution case”. But what he failed to add was what the SCCRC actually concluded about the issue: that while it was unhelpful to his defence, it raised the question of why he didn’t travel that way on the crucial dates – when he used passports. A terrorist surely would have done so.
Ashton has complained formally to the BBC which is investigating.