Richard Porter

Part of the conspiracy?

The 9/11 conspiracy theories are pretty well known by now. The BBC addressed them earlier this month with a documentary, The Conspiracy Files, shown within the UK.

BBC World logoUntil now, I don't think we've been accused of being part of the conspiracy. But now some websites are using news footage from BBC World on September 11th 2001 to suggest we were actively participating in some sort of attempt to manipulate the audience. As a result, we're now getting lots of emails asking us to clarify our position. So here goes:

1. We're not part of a conspiracy. Nobody told us what to say or do on September 11th. We didn't get told in advance that buildings were going to fall down. We didn't receive press releases or scripts in advance of events happening.

2. In the chaos and confusion of the day, I'm quite sure we said things which turned out to be untrue or inaccurate - but at the time were based on the best information we had. We did what we always did - sourced our reports, used qualifying words like "apparently" or "it's reported" or "we're hearing" and constantly tried to check and double check the information we were receiving.

An image of the website hosting the alleged BBC World footage3. Our reporter Jane Standley was in New York on the day of the attacks, and like everyone who was there, has the events seared on her mind. I've spoken to her today and unsurprisingly, she doesn't remember minute-by-minute what she said or did - like everybody else that day she was trying to make sense of what she was seeing; what she was being told; and what was being told to her by colleagues in London who were monitoring feeds and wires services.

4. We no longer have the original tapes of our 9/11 coverage (for reasons of cock-up, not conspiracy). So if someone has got a recording of our output, I'd love to get hold of it. We do have the tapes for our sister channel News 24, but they don't help clear up the issue one way or another.

5. If we reported the building had collapsed before it had done so, it would have been an error - no more than that. As one of the comments on You Tube says today "so the guy in the studio didn't quite know what was going on? Woah, that totally proves conspiracy... "

Richard Porter is head of BBC World News

Alistair Burnett

Unresolved arguments

Can a nation be guilty of genocide? A question we looked at last night following the verdict of the International Court of Justice (the ICJ) that Serbia was not directly responsible for the massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnian War. The Bosnian government had taken neighbouring Serbia to court to try to prove Belgrade was guilty of war crimes in the war of 1992-95.

The World Tonight
The finding of the court was finely balanced in that it did find that what happened at Bosnian Muslim-held town Srebrenica when it fell to Bosnia Serb forces in 1995 was genocide (up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys are thought to have been killed) and while ruling that Belgrade was not guilty of committing that genocide it also ruled that Serbia was guilty of not preventing genocide - so there was something for everyone in the decision.

This was reflected in the discussion on last night's World Tonight (listen here) between Anthony Dworkin (director of the Crimes of War project) and John Laughland (who wrote "Travesty: the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the corruption of international justice," which is highly critical of the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, (ICTY) which tries individuals, rather than states as the ICJ does). They both found something to praise in the decision of the ICJ - but not the same thing.

One of the key questions that came up was whether a whole state representing a nation - such as the Serbs - can be held responsible for what happened in the past when their country was led by a undemocratic leaders? Not a new question when we think back to the Treaty of Versailles and the imposition of reparations on Germany after World War One, but it is very pertinent today as the international community struggles with what to do about Kosovo and Iraq.

In Kosovo for example, the United States and Britain argue that the Serbs have to let Kosovo go because the Serbs have lost the moral right to govern the majoriity Albanian population following the violence and repression by the government of Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s. Meanwhile in Iraq, the British and Americans argue that the international community should forgive most of the debts the country incurred under Saddam Hussein because the people of Iraq should not have to pay the price of the policies of the former dictator.

Tonight we are looking at the decision of the newly established International Criminal Court to name individuals indicted for war cirmes in Darfur - which is the other route to seeking justice for war crimes: go for the individual rather than the state.

But - as you may have anticipated - this approach is also criticised, often because in the case of ICTY some of the big fish have yet to face trial (Ratko Mladic) or have died while on trial (Slobodan Milosevic) and only the smaller fish ever get convicted. (Before you ask what about Saddam Hussein, I have omitted him here as his trial was not an international trial, but as you will remember his trial was crticised by the UN among others for not being fair).

Anyway, these are arguments that have been aired on The World Tonight among other BBC programmes and will continue to be as Darfur, Kosovo and Iraq remain unresolved.

Alistair Burnett is editor of the World Tonight

Richard Jackson

Road rage

Britain was a nation of animal lovers. Or was it shopkeepers?

Radio Five Live logoAnd an Englishman's home was his castle.

But in 2007, have we become a Kingdom united by our love of the car?

Just mention a topic about cars on the radio first thing in the morning, and the response is instantaneous. It might be road pricing, car parking, the cost of petrol or, like this morning, the use of a mobile phone while driving.

Hell hath no fury like a motorist scorned - or at least told by someone else how to behave behind the wheel. Our text service runs hotter that the tarmac on the M25 in the middle of July, the e-mails more jammed than the M6 in the rush-hour.

The anti-car lobby tries to be heard from the sidelines, but it tends to be about as effective as a bicycle bell against a cacophony of car horns. The roar of the traffic drowns out most other opinions.

With more cars on the roads than ever before, we probably shouldn't be surprised. But - after nearly two million people were sent an e-mail by the prime minister because they petitioned the Downing Street website - it seems motorists are learning the power of putting their collective foot down.

We'll keep putting other opinions on air too, but is there a risk they'll increasingly be drowned out by the supporters of the right to drive? Jeremy Clarkson for PM?

Richard Jackson is editor of Five Live Breakfast


BBC in the news, Tuesday

  • Host
  • 27 Feb 07, 08:36 AM

The Sun, Daily Mail and others: Reports on Tuesday night's Watchdog report into security at airport car park valet services. (Link)

Daily Star: Mediawatch UK criticises level of violence in films shown on British TV. (No link available)

Daily Mirror: Report on BBC activities for World Book Day. (No link available)

Guardian: Report says TV soaps should include more politics. (Link)

Washington Post: Review of BBC World by Howard Kurtz.(Link)

Independent: Review of Richard D North's book Scrap the BBC! (Link)

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