This weekend the Mail on Sunday published an article under the headline, "BBC may be prosecuted for offering £40,000 to 'child smugglers'".
It followed a report on Thursday's BBC Ten O'Clock News (which the programme's editor blogged about here) exposing a Bulgarian man willing to sell children.
The Mail on Sunday quoted extensively from a press conference given by the chief of police in Varna, Bulgaria, where the investigation was carried out. He said the BBC offered money for the children and that, according to their information, "the BBC's investigation was flawed." He added, "we have found nothing to back up claims of an organised group selling children for €60,000."
The article also included the paragraph, "neighbours who know the man added that they would not be surprised if he had taken money from the BBC's journalists to fabricate the story, but doubted he was involved in baby-trafficking". It also made a point of the fact that the story comes in the wake of BBC staff being suspended after faked phone-in competitions.
However the police chief made a number of demonstrably inaccurate comments in his press conference and clearly has a vested interest in down-playing the significance of the BBC's investigation, as it reveals potential criminal activity in his jurisdiction. For instance, the police chief claimed that the BBC had sacked the journalist responsible for the report and had written a letter of apology - both of which are untrue.
The BBC did not offer money for the children. In fact "Harry" - who boasted to us that he was a people trafficker, and has a criminal conviction for it in Germany - brought a succession of children to us, and set a price of up to €60,000. The evidence is on tape for all to see - you can watch the report here.
The police chief claims we deliberately attempted to delay the arrest of "Harry" by providing false information. Again, this is incorrect. He also claims Varna doesn't have a problem with people trafficking. Both the United Nations and the European Union say it does - with reports warning of many gangs .
The investigation was carried out under strict editorial guidelines, with the BBC's Editorial Policy department consulted at every point - it exposed a trade in children going on within the European Union, something of great public interest. BBC News is proud of the report and the journalists who worked on it - at significant personal risk - and we stand by the report, and how it was made, fully.