The Guardian’s pyromania-like tendency to publish information for its own gratification with no concern for the consequences for others has once more come to the fore. After its collaboration with Wikileaks on the US embassy cables and its collaboration with Al Jazeera on the Palestine papers, it last week published the claim that a US citizen being held in Pakistan in connection to a shooting incident is a CIA official. The next day the Guardian also produced a photo gallery of pictures related to the story. The photographs depict an atmosphere on the streets of Lahore which can hardly be described as illustrating any kind of commitment to a fair judicial process for Raymond Davis.
According to reports from other sources, AP declined to publish the same information:
“The Associated Press learned about Davis working for the CIA last month, immediately after the shootings, but withheld publication of the information because it could endanger his life while he was jailed overseas, with at least some protesters there calling for his execution as a spy.”
“The AP had intended to report Davis’ CIA employment after he was out of harm’s way, but the story was broken Sunday by The Guardian of London. The CIA asked the AP and several other U.S. media outlets to hold their stories as the U.S. tried to improve Davis’ security situation.”
No doubt the Guardian will justify its actions as it usually does – by invoking ‘the public’s right to know’, although that bench-mark appears to be applied rather selectively. Guardian editors apparently find ‘the public’s right to know’ rather more compelling when it comes with a side-dish of perceived embarrassment for the American or Israeli governments, although the Palestinian Authority has definitely joined that category of late too.
Recent questions surrounding the Guardian’s own tax arrangements and offshore bank accounts are apparently not included in what the public has a right to know. When Prince Harry served a tour in Afghanistan, the Guardian – like the rest of the British media – was happy to comply with government requests for a news blackout on the subject so as not to endanger lives.
‘Ah,’ you may be thinking, ‘but here we are talking about a spy accused of committing a serious crime – this is different.’ Well let’s go back a few years to the mid 1990s when a Libyan ‘diplomat’ (and member of the Libyan External Security Organization) named Khalifa Ahmed Bazelya was declared ‘persona non grata’ and expelled from the UK on December 11th 1995 after the brutal murder of a Libyan dissident living in the UK.
Oddly enough, in 1997, the Guardian’s then associate foreign editor claimed never to have heard of Bazeyla. One would think that a foreign editor might take an interest in the rare diplomatic expulsion only two years previously of a man associated with the regime responsible for the murder of a British policewoman. One would consider that particularly likely if that man had been transferring rather substantial payments to one’s own personal bank account, but Victoria Brittain claimed at the time that she had no knowledge of the source of the thousands of pounds landing mysteriously in her account by foreign transfer.
That is quite an impressive lack of curiosity by any standards, and particularly for a journalist. Brittain’s editor at the time, Alan Rusbridger, also appeared to be inflicted with a similar lack of curiosity regarding his employee’s financial arrangements and her personal connections to the Intelligence Chief of the human rights abusing Ghanan military dictatorship at the time, Mr. Kojo Tsikara, for whose benefit the money was transferred. Despite the fact that the UK had no diplomatic ties with Libya at the time and that it was well-known that Ghaddafi’s regime was heavily involved financially in Ghana, ‘the public’s right to know’ did not prevail in that instance.
In fact, five years after Bazelya was expelled from Britain, the Guardian’s sister paper the Observer, ran a story on the subject in the wake of the leaking of MI6 papers related to the Libyan. Although those papers also contained references to Bazelya’s payments into Victoria Brittain’s personal bank account, that information was not deemed suitable for publication at the time. As Stephen Glover wrote in the Spectator at the time:
“There is no evidence that she [Brittain] knew Bazelya personally, though it is plausibly alleged that her friend Kojo Tsikata did, and had meetings with him in London on 17 September and 16 December 1993, and 25 March 1994. The point is that the Observer has decided, no doubt correctly, that Bazelya is a dangerous man. It fulminates against MI5 for letting him into the country and for not keeping a proper eye on him. But it deliberately leaves out Ms Brittain’s own links to Bazelya for fear that they might embarrass her and compromise the Guardian. It is as good an example as you will find of double standards and readers being short-changed.”
Plus ca change….it seems that at the Guardian, ‘the public’s right to know’ depends entirely upon whom that knowledge is likely to embarrass or compromise and the Guardian’s own resulting gratification.