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  The war in Iraq: John Simpson
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John Simpson

"Due" impartiality is the degree of impartiality appropriate to the nature of the subject and the type of programme.

Due impartiality does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles, nor is it necessarily achieved by a mathematical approach which balances each view by an equal and opposing one.

But the BBC is committed to reflecting a diversity of opinion.


Reporting on war in Iraq - by John Simpson, the BBC's World Affairs editor.

During the war in Iraq, opinions were fiercely divided. Both sides were certain they were right.

So naturally it was open season on the BBC. We were called 'government lickspittles' at the precise moment when other people were accusing us of being anti-war and anti-American.

Being objective

So, as journalists, we had to be very clear about our function. It's to give people the plain, unvarnished facts as fully and honestly as possible.

We must not tell them what to think; leave that to the newspapers.

Even if we are absolutely certain that one side is right and the other one is wrong, we must be open and honest about what's happening.

Let the facts speak for themselves; if we try to persuade people what to think, we're being politicians instead of objective reporters.

Our duty: to be balanced

Even in open-and-shut moral cases we have a duty to be balanced and calm in the way we report. "There must be no room for ranting", the Board of Governors said in their instructions to staff at the start of the Second World War.

In other words, no slinging around of adjectives like "evil", and no name-calling; not even with Hitler and the Nazis.

We must remember something else, too. We are broadcasting to people in the UK and around the world who often have completely different sets of beliefs and principles from ours.

They have a right to expect that we will present those beliefs and principles fairly; whether the subject is Israeli settlements, Palestinian rights, American foreign policy, or the legacy of Saddam Hussein.

We'll never keep everyone happy. But a very large number of people around the world think that, on balance, we tell them what's going on honestly, fairly and calmly.

It's a priceless inheritance. We dare not squander it.


 
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