Monday, 20 April 2015

BBC fails in legal bid to televise Lockerbie trial

[What follows is the text of a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2000:]

The BBC has lost its appeal to televise the trial of the two Libyans accused of causing the Lockerbie bombing.

The corporation learned on Thursday that its court action to broadcast the trial on television and the internet had been rejected by the High Court in Edinburgh.

Two men, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 47, and Al Ali Khalifa Fhimah, 43, stand accused of killing 270 people in the tragedy on 21 December 1988.

All 259 on board Pan Am flight 103 from Heathrow to New York perished, along with 11 people in the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

The BBC had appealed against an earlier ruling which said the proceedings could not be televised.

The original request was turned down because it was judged that the Libyan defendants' right to a fair trial was more important than the media's right to freedom of expression.

The trial begins on 3 May [2000] and the BBC had hoped to broadcast proceedings live on the internet and show extracts on BBC news programmes.

The panel of appeal judges, headed by Lord Kirkwood, heard pleas from the BBC's QC, Roy Martin, that the initial decision should be reversed.

He told the court the Lockerbie trial was of unique interest, nationally and internationally.

The BBC had argued that the former Lord Advocate, Lord Hardie, was breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which is now a part of Scottish law, by not allowing the trial to be broadcast.

It contested Lord Macfadyen's ruling that witnesses at the Lockerbie trial would be affected by the presence of cameras.

The judge had said there was a risk of witnesses not attending the trial in Camp Zeist, Holland, if they knew it was being televised.

There were also concerns that witnesses would know what evidence had been given, and that some might play to the cameras.

The corporation's case centred on the decision by the former Lord Advocate, Lord Hardie, to allow relatives of those killed in the 1988 bombing to watch encoded pictures of the trial in four locations - Dumfries, London, New York and Washington.

But in his judgement, Lord McFadyen said there was a clear distinction between transmitting pictures to remote sites, to allow relatives to watch proceedings, and broadcasting to the general public.

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