The BBC’s single source scoop is suspect

BY SUBIR BHAUMIK| IN Media Practice | 14/07/2015
Owen Bennet-Jones stands by his story but the London police deny having on record any confession by a MQM leader about R&AW funding,
The BBC’s single source scoop is suspect

“ The Tories are trying  to kill the BBC , but will you blame this on them ? This is a poor piece of journalism ! ” tweeted former BBC radio producer ToufiqueImroseKhalidi,  referring to the BBC’s ‘expose’ of Sindh’s MQM party  receiving funds from India’s secret agency RAW on June 24, 2015.


BBC Full Documentary MQM June 2015 - MQM is... by punjabcry

After  the London Metropolitan Police deniedhaving on its record any confession statement by  MuttahidaQaumi Movement (MQM) leader Tariq Mir , the BBC’s so-called expose seems to have fallen flat on its face..

The London Metropolitan Police spokesperson Alan Crockford, after carefully reviewing the purported testimony of Tariq Mir , told UK newspapers recently that they were not ‘official documents of record’.

In an e-mail reply, Crockford said that the London police had carefully analysed excerpts from this alleged confession or Tariq Mir, printed in various newspapers of Pakistan , and found that “no such document is part of our record”.

The Pakistan media carried the story after the BBC scoop , not the other way round. Does that means the so-called Mir confession is a fake, a creation of Pakistani intelligence, that the BBC swallowed from its ‘authoritative Pakistani source’?

To recall, this is how the BBC’s so-called expose began :

Officials in Pakistan's MQM party have told the UK authorities they received Indian government funds, the BBC learnt from an authoritative Pakistani source.

The BBC report did not name any MQM leader , neither did it quote a UK source on the story nor did it actually name the ‘authoritative Pakistani source”.  Unusual for an organization that is very particular about sourcing.

The whole story that talks about MQM leaders telling UK authorities about receiving money from R&AW hangs on Pakistani sources.And that is what makes the story suspect.

“Pakistani sources can tell the truth,” said BBC’s Owen Bennett Jones in an e-mail to this writer , when questions were raised about the credibility of his story.

The truth is that Pakistani sources can but rarely tell the truth on MQM – much as Indian sources would rarely tell the truth when it comes to Kashmir.

There is enough indication that Pakistan went on an overdrive to prove R&AW-MQM links in recent months after coming under huge pressure to come clean to prosecute the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai massacre.

In the purported testimony of MQM leader Mir, which were ‘leaded’ online, it had been alleged that the MuttahidaQaumi Movement (MQM) had been receiving funds from the Indian agency R&AW since 1994 with only four top leaders kept in the loop.

The BBC report alluded to this alleged statement of Mir, said to be containing startling disclosures about the relationship between the top party leadership and the Indians.

Owen Bennett Jones hangs the whole story of R&AW-MQM links on Pakistani sources, when the revelations by MQM leader(s) are supposed to have been made to UK authorities.

But now that the London police, which has been investigating the MQM after the 2010 murder of one of its leaders Imran Farooq in Edgware, has rubbished the so-called Mir testimony, the BBC is left high and dry .

The BBC’s two-source rule, ruthlessly imposed over the years on generation of reporters on every sensitive story, was overlooked in the case of this story. More importantly, there seems to be no attempt to touch base with UK sources , like the London Metropolitan Police , on a story happening in UK . Was it not important for the BBC to check this story out with London Metropolitan Police ,as other UK media outlets seems to have done?

Jones has been a long-time BBC correspondent in Islamabad and is likely to have high level sources in the country. But if he is reporting revelations allegedly made to UK authorities, it is unbecoming of him or the BBC not to touch base with UK officials to check on what MQM leaders said , if they did.

In view of how frenzy grips ‘high level sources’ in Pakistan and India over contentious bilateral issues – like during the recent Indian cross-border raid on rebel bases in Myanmar—it will be too much not to expect disinformation rather than information , lie rather than truth, on contentious bilateral issues. Pakistani ministers threatened nuclear strikes if India tried a Myanmar with them and Indian ministers threatening to tackle ‘western disturbances’ a la Myanmar.

Reporting allegations as facts is the allegation against the BBC here and it is finding it difficult to justify its position.

The fact that Pakistanis in UK are jumping to Jones’s defence, even petitioning BBC News website to publish his whole story adds further doubt about whether the BBC story was seen as a starting point for a campaign rather than coming up with hitherto-unrevealed facts.

“The BBC management has come under pressure and has stopped its publication. This is unfair on part of the BBC editorial managers,” says Manzoor Zia, a UK Pakistani in his petition to the BBC news website.

This story undermines the BBC's editorial credibility at a time when it is under huge pressure from David Cameron's government.

But it also lends grist to rumour mills back in India that the corporation has a anti-India bias and always covers the country negatively, like the Nirbhaya rape documentary.

 Related links

Documents and priorities Owen Bennet-Jones

MQM document leaks in UK linked to Parrikar’s ‘terrorism’ remarks?

 Editor’s note: links to this story from the BBC site  could not be  found. 

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