Court rejects BBC legal challenge over Israel coverage

The Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge against the BBC from beyond the grave.

The late Steven Sugar fought a six-year legal battle to gain access to an internal BBC report that analysed its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sugar, who suspected an anti-Israeli bias in reporting from the Middle East, applied in 2005 for disclosure of the Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

The BBC refused the solicitor’s application on the grounds that the report was outside the scope of the FOIA because it was held for “purposes of journalism, art or literature”.

That triggered litigation which led to the case going all the way to the House of Lords before returning to the Information Tribunal.

The tribunal’s decision in favour of Sugar was overturned by the High Court in a decision subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal last year.

Following her husband’s death from cancer at the age of 61, his widow Fiona Paveley pursued the battle on his behalf to the Supreme Court, which took over the role of highest court in the land from the House of Lords.

But today five Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed the appeal. All agreed that the report was “outside the scope” of the FOIA, as the High Court and appeal court had ruled.

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