I've just finished reading Nick Davies' ' Flat Earth News'.
Ian Hislop called the book 'A must read for anyone worried about journalism-which, on this analysis, should be everyone'. Perhaps this is an example of what Hislop means.
The second last chapter is called, 'The Blinded Observer' and after I'd read this I watched Alastair Campbell's performance before the the Chilcot Enquiry.
Davies gives an account of what appears to be another piece of deliberate deception in the lead up to the Iraq war and the Observers' complicity in it.
In September 2002, after a UK/USA summit, the Observer reported that ' a resolute Prime Minister' claimed that Saddam had ' stocks of chemical and biological weapons that had not been accounted for; that his weapons of mass destruction would be targeted at British interests; and that ' on nuclear sites, there had been a lot of activity going on'. The Observer ran this 'without any qualification'.
'Blair was allowed to corroborate this claim by declaring: 'We only need to look at the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency this morning showing what has been going on at the former nuclear weapons site to realise that'.
Had the Observer checked to see that Blair was telling the truth about this report, they would have found out that there was no such document in existence.
There was not even a report that the Prime Minister could have misconstrued.There was just no IAEA report at all. There was a story in the New York Times, published the day before the Prime Minister made these remarks, and it did claim that ' United Nations official said today that international weapons inspectors had identified several nuclear related sites Iraq where new construction or other unexplained changes had occurred since their last visit nearly four years ago'.
.... that story had been picked up by Reuters and spread round the world. However, even as that was happening, the IAEA was denying it. From their headquarters in Vienna, they issued a statement that could not be clearer: 'With reference to an article published today in the New York Times, the International Atomic Energy Agency would like to state that it has no new information on Iraq's nuclear programme since December 1998 when its inspectors left Iraq'. And yet, twenty four hours later, in spite of that denial, the Prime Minister, with the assistance of the Observer, was adding falsehood to falsehood.
As far as I can see, just like Campbell's failure to correct the lurid press accounts of the 45 minute warning, no one appears to have corrected, what at best was Blair's error. When an error knowingly goes uncorrected it converts what may have been a honest mistake into a deliberate falsehood
I do hope Sir Roderic Lyne, by far the toughest questioner on the panel to date, gets his teeth into this when Blair appears.