BBC Reportedly Threatened With Contempt of Court Over Refusal to Disclose Info About Diana’s Letter

© HENRY NICHOLLSPedestrians walk past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in London, Britain January 29, 2020.
Pedestrians walk past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in London, Britain January 29, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.12.2021
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Earlier this year, an independent inquiry conducted by former Supreme Court Justice Lord Dyson revealed that BBC journalist Martin Bashir acted in a "deceitful" way to secure an interview with Princess Diana, while condemning the outlet for covering up what it had learned about Mr Bashir’s actions.
The British Broadcasting Corporation has been threatened with contempt of court over its refusal to disclose information about a letter that the late Princess Diana wrote to the outlet in the 1990s, the Daily Mail reported.

The handwritten letter, dated 22 December 1995, was written by Diana a month after her infamous interview with journalist Martin Bashir was broadcast. It was made public only earlier this year as part of an independent inquiry. In it, the late Princess of Wales wrote the following:

"Martin Bashir did not show me any documents, nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of. I consented to the interview on Panorama without any undue pressure and have no regrets concerning the matter".

In September, investigative journalist Andy Webb asked the BBC to release "all documents" relating to Diana’s letter under the Freedom of Information Act, which requires the government and public bodies to disclose information upon request. The BBC did not respond to Andy Webb’s request. Last week, the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that the outlet violated the law when it failed to disclose all documents related to the letter. "The breach may be dealt with as a contempt of court", the public body said in its ruling.

It gave the BBC 35 days to send all information to Andy Webb. The outlet stated that it tried to send the documents to the journalist at the end of November, but he was unable to receive them because of "technical difficulties" with the Corporation’s Freedom of Information email account.

The inquiry conducted by Lord Dyson revealed that the BBC management gave Diana’s letter to an individual whose identity has never been identified and told him to guard it "with his life".

Why is It Important?

The BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana is widely considered one of the biggest scoops of all time. For the first time in the history of the British monarchy, a senior royal opened up about life inside the palace, in particular her struggle with media attention, her experience with self-harm, and the infidelity of her husband Prince Charles.

The Princess of Wales said "there were three of us in this marriage", hinting at Prince Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (now his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall). As if this alone wasn’t enough to make the ground under Buckingham Palace open up, Diana revealed that she herself had an extramarital affair with a cavalry officer named James Lifford Hewitt.
© AP PhotoPrincess Diana, laughs in this televison image, during an interview aired on the BBC Panorama program Monday Nov. 20, 1995, as she claimed the whole of Britain was in labor with her during the birth of her sons
Princess Diana, laughs in this televison image, during an interview aired on the BBC Panorama program  Monday Nov. 20, 1995, as she claimed the whole of Britain was in labor with her during the birth of her sons - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.12.2021
Princess Diana, laughs in this televison image, during an interview aired on the BBC Panorama program Monday Nov. 20, 1995, as she claimed the whole of Britain was in labor with her during the birth of her sons

Since the interview was aired, Diana’s brother Earl Spencer has questioned the tactics used by Martin Bashir to speak with the Princess of Wales. In 1996, the BBC conducted its own investigation, which exonerated the journalist. But an independent inquiry conducted by former Supreme Court Justice Lord Dyson this year revealed that Bashir had acted in a "deceitful" way. He provided false bank statements to Earl Spencer showing that two royal courtiers had been paid by the security services to spy on Diana. By doing this, Martin Bashir was able to gain Earl Spencer's trust so that he would introduce the journalist to Diana, the probe stated.

The inquiry also revealed that the BBC "fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark" when it "covered up" what it had learned about Bashir’s actions.

The BBC has come under severe criticism following the publication of the probe. Diana’s sons Prince William and Prince Harry have blamed toxic media culture for their mother’s death. The Duke of Cambridge blamed the outlet’s failings for fuelling Princess Diana’s paranoia and worsening his parents' relationship.

"But what saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived. She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions", Prince William said.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorced a year after the interview was broadcast. Diana died tragically in a car crash in France in 1997. Two probes conducted by French and British investigators put the blame on the driver, who was driving too fast in a tunnel in order to escape the paparazzi, and was also intoxicated with drugs and alcohol.
© AP Photo / Jerome DelayWorkers prepare to take away the car in which Diana, Princess of Wales, died Sunday, Aug. 31, 1997 in Paris, in a car crash that also killed her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and the chauffeur.
Workers prepare to take away the car in which Diana, Princess of Wales, died Sunday, Aug. 31, 1997 in Paris, in a car crash that also killed her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and the chauffeur. - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.12.2021
Workers prepare to take away the car in which Diana, Princess of Wales, died Sunday, Aug. 31, 1997 in Paris, in a car crash that also killed her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and the chauffeur.
The BBC has issued public apology, including apologies to Diana’s family. Journalist Martin Bashir left the BBC in May, several weeks before the publication of the inquiry, citing health issues. Bashir, who also interviewed the King of Pop Michael Jackson, said he regretted faking documents, describing it as "a stupid thing to do", but noted that his actions did not affect Diana’s decision to be interviewed.

"I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently. It is saddening that this single issue has been allowed to overshadow the princess' brave decision to tell her story, to courageously talk through the difficulties she faced, and, to help address the silence and stigma that surrounded mental health issues all those years ago", he said.

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