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Panorama libel action starts 7 Nov

Journalist Paddy French defends description of infamous BBC Panorama programme as ‘rogue journalism’

One of the most important libel actions in the ‘Labour antisemitism’ saga will be heard this autumn. The £50,000 libel action brought by the BBC Panorama reporter John Ware against Press Gang editor Paddy French starts on 7 November at London’s High Court.

The July 2019 BBC Panorama programme ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’ featured among its ‘whistleblowers’ at least two former staff accused in a leaked Labour report of hindering Corbyn’s efforts to combat antisemitism – and a woman recorded by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter discussing beating up black left-wing Jewish activist Jackie Walker. French criticised the programme in a Press Gang pamphlet entitled ‘Is The BBC Anti-Labour?’ The four day hearing is the climax of a case that is expected to cost £750,000.

French, who will be defended by Hugh Tomlinson, QC and Darryl Hutcheon, instructed by Bindmans solicitors, has raised nearly £90,000 from more than a thousand backers, including Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters, who told French “your fight is fundamentally important”. 

Ware is represented by William Bennett QC instructed by Mark Lewis of Patron Law. 

French, an investigative journalist and a television producer with more than 40 years experience (ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and the Sunday Times under Harold Evans’ editorship), said in a statement:

This case provides a unique opportunity for the issue of antisemitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to be explored in a forensic setting. Was I (and Labour) right to criticise the July 2019 Panorama programme Is Labour Anti-Semitic? as a biased piece of rogue journalism?

Or was the BBC (and John Ware) right when they said the broadcast was made in compliance with the Corporation’s Editorial Guidelines, rejecting accusations of bias or dishonesty?”

Ware abandoned libel action against former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for similar comments about the programme, according to the crowdfund page set up to raise funds for Corbyn’s legal defence. The page raised almost £400,000.

French’s crowdfunder can be found here. As with last week’s cases involving MP Claudia Webbe’s appeal and whistleblower Elaina Cohen’s tribunal against right-wing Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, Skwawkbox will be in London to cover the hearing.

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