Who is Martin Bashir? The BBC journalist at the centre of the Princess Diana interview scandal - and where is he now?

Martin Bashir first joined the BBC in 1986, and quickly became a household name following the Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995

The interview with Princess Diana has been subject to investigation (Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images/ITV)
The interview with Princess Diana has been subject to investigation (Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images/ITV)

Martin Bashir became a household name overnight after his infamous BBC Panorama interview with Princess Diana in 1995, where she discussed the hidden details of her life inside the royal family, and her failed marriage with the Prince of Wales.

Now, over two decades later, the interview, and how Martin Bashir managed to secure it, is at the centre of an investigation, with a report on the findings scheduled to be published today (20 May).

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Who is Martin Bashir?

Martin Bashir is a British journalist who rose to prominence with his 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana.

The interview featured intimate details of the failed marriage between Princess Diana and Charles, Prince of Wales, as well as Diana’s life inside the royal family. At the time, it was watched by 23 million people.

Bashir was the recipient of various awards for the Diana interview, including a BAFTA Award, TV Journalist of the Year from the Broadcasting Press Guild, and Journalist of the Year from the Royal Television Society.

Following the Diana interview, Bashir also conducted a number of other interviews with high profile figures, such as Michael Jackson, Charles Ingram – the army major who was found guilty of trying to cheat his way to winning the top prize on quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire – and Louise Woodward, a British au pair who was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of a baby she was caring for in America.

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What has Bashir’s career been like?

Bashir was born on 19 January 1963 in Wandsworth in London. He studied English and History from 1982 to 1985 at King Alfred’s College of Higher Education, and completed his master’s degree at King’s College London.

Bashir’s career as a journalist began as a freelance sports writer before he joined the BBC in 1986. Bashir stayed with the BBC until 1999, and appeared on programmes including Songs of Praise, Public Eye and, of course, Panorama.

In 1999, Bashir moved to ITV where he worked on special documentary programmes and features for Tonight with Trevor McDonald. In 2004, Bashir moved to New York where he worked for ABC as a co-anchor for their current affairs programme Nightline, along with Cynthia McFadden and Terry Moran. In 2005, he took over Nightline from Ted Koppel.

In 2008, Bashir was suspended from ABC News for behaviour that was described as “crude and sexist” during a dinner speech at the Asain American Journalists Association convention in Chicago.

Two years later, Bashir left ABC for MSNBC, where he took up the role as political commentator and also hosted his own programme.

In late 2016, Bashir returned to the BBC as religious affairs correspondent.

Last year Bashir also appeared on the celebrity spin off version of the X-Factor, where he was eliminated from the show after week three.

Where is Bashir now?

On 14 May 2021, Bashir resigned from the BBC on grounds of poor health, and he is said to be seriously unwell with Covid-19 complications.

Earlier this month, BBC Deputy Director of News, Jonathan Munro, told staff: “Martin Bashir has stepped down from his position as the BBC’s religious editor and is leaving the corporation.

“He let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart.

“Although he underwent major surgery toward the end of last year, he is facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health.”

The BBC also said in a statement: “Martin Bashir is signed off work by his doctors as he is currently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and has significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.”

What’s the inquiry into the Diana interview about?

An investigation into the infamous Diana interview has been led by Lord Dyson, and looked into a claim lodged by Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, that accused Bashir of having lied to the princess in order to secure the interview.

The independent inquiry was commissioned by the BBC last year, after Spencer went public with the accusations.

The investigation was launched afterSpencer alleged Bashir showed him fake financial documents relating to his sister’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson, and another former royal household member, and told lies about the royal family to gain access to the princess.

At the time the inquiry was launched, Lord Dyson said: “This is an important investigation which I will start straight away. I will ensure it is both thorough and fair.”

The terms of reference for the independent investigation are as follows:

- “What steps did the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir take with a view to obtaining the Panorama interview on 20 November 1995 with Diana, Princess of Wales? This will involve a consideration of all the relevant evidence including (i) the mocked up bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Earl Spencer (ii) the purported payments to members of the Royal Households; and (iii) the other matters recently raised by Earl Spencer not limited to the matters published in the Daily Mail on 7 November 2020.

- Were those steps appropriate, having regard in particular to the BBC’s editorial standards prevailing at the time?

- To what extent did the actions of the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir influence Diana, Princess of Wales’s decision to give an interview?

- What knowledge did the BBC have in 1995 and 1996 of the relevant evidence referred to at paragraph 1 above?

- Having regard to what was known at the time of its investigation in 1995 and 1996, how effectively did the BBC investigate the circumstances leading to the interview?”

The findings of the investigation are set to be published today, Thursday 20 May, and are reportedly set to conclude that Bashir used deceitful methods to secure the interview, in breach of BBC editorial rules.