A review into the rehiring of Martin Bashir to be the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent has concluded that he was not given the job in a bid to ‘cover up’ the truth about his interview with Princess Diana in 1995.
The journalist, who is thought to be seriously ill due to Covid-19 side-effects, was found to have used “deceitful methods” to obtain an interview with the princess after an inquest concluded earlier this year.
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At a glance: 5 key points
– Martin Bashir used ‘deceitful’ methods, including falsifying bank statements, to acquire a high profile interview with Princess Diana in 1995, a recent inquiry found
– The BBC commissioned an internal review into the decision to rehire him in 2016, after he left the corporation in 1999
– The review found that the BBC did not rehire Bashir as part of a ‘cover-up’ of the Diana interview, but had considered him the best person for the job after an interview process
– James Harding, who was then the BBC’s head of news, was ultimately responsible for the decision to re-hire Bashir
– The review found that Harding should have considered other public controversies Bashir had been involved in, including allegations he made sexist comments` during a speech he made at a convention in 2008
What’s been said?
Former head of BBC News, James Harding said: “As I said a few weeks ago, I was in charge of BBC News when we hired Martin Bashir to be religious affairs correspondent.
“The responsibility sits with me. Today’s report shows we chose the person we thought was the best candidate for the job.
“He was appointed after a formal interview process and once references were taken and considered.
“As the report concludes, we didn’t know then what we know now. Of course, if I had known, he wouldn’t have got the job.”
The inquiry was conducted by Ken MacQuarrie, BBC’s former director of nations and regions. He said: “In my view, the recruitment process for the religious affairs correspondent was targeted at finding the right person for the role.
“Although there were some shortcomings in the process by which he was re-employed, I am satisfied that he was ultimately appointed because his knowledge and experience were considered to be the best match to the requirements for the role at that time.
“It said I have found no evidence that Martin Bashir was re-hired to contain and/or cover up the events surrounding the 1995 Panorama programme.
“In my view, that theory is entirely unfounded.
“As regards the due diligence conducted on Martin Bashir, the actions of the individuals involved in the recruitment and re-grading of Martin Bashir can only properly be judged against the state of the BBC’s corporate understanding as it was in 2016 and not as it stands now in 2021.
“None of the individuals involved in the recruitment of Martin Bashir had knowledge of all of the matters contained in the Dyson Report.
“I have no doubt that if any of the individuals involved in the appointment of Martin Bashir in 2016 had been aware of what is now publicly known as a result of the Dyson Report, Martin Bashir would have never been reappointed to the BBC.”
Chair of the Department for Culture, Media and Society select committee, Julian Knight MP said: “We are deeply concerned by the revelations in the BBC’s report into its decision to rehire Martin Bashir in 2016.
“That the BBC considered rehiring Martin Bashir when there were high level doubts over his integrity stretches incredulity to breaking point. By this point, as the Dyson report concluded, senior members of the BBC knew that Bashir had lied about the use of faked bank statements to gain access to Princess Diana.
“If the BBC considered him ‘unanimously’ the best candidate, where was the due diligence that should have prevented the corporation from rehiring a former member of staff who had not told a very important truth? Where were senior level discussions?
“What is disturbing is that it appeared the BBC wanted to interview Bashir at the outset, regardless of who else applied for the job. And, not only did they re-employ him, they promoted him.
“We look forward to getting answers tomorrow when former director-general Lord Hall comes before our committee along with the former DG Lord Birt, the BBC’s current DG Tim Davie and its chair Richard Sharp.”
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