View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. News
May 9, 2024

Foreign Office whistleblower sacked after being outed by BBC journalist

Foreign Office worker sacked for disclosures to BBC over Kabul animal evacuation in 2021.

By PA Media

A sacked Foreign Office whistleblower has told an employment tribunal she was “foolish and naive” to share internal emails with a journalist, but said: “I do not think I did the wrong thing.”

Josie Stewart shared emails with a BBC journalist which allegedly showed that senior staff at the department had sought guidance from Number 10 over whether to prioritise the evacuation of staff from the animal charity Nowzad during the 2021 fall of Kabul, the tribunal in central London heard on Wednesday.

Ms Stewart, a former civil servant at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), was sacked after the journalist accidentally revealed her name by posting the emails on social media in January 2022.

She is now alleging unfair dismissal for making a protected disclosure under whistleblowing laws.

The 2021 Nowzad flight sparked controversy as animals were safely airlifted out of Afghanistan while thousands of people trying to flee the Taliban in Kabul were left behind.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

During the evacuation, Ms Stewart worked on the special cases team where those potentially eligible to come to the UK were assessed on an individual basis.

Content from our partners
New technology from EX.CO helps publishers double on-site video revenue
Five ways to fail in media job interviews
How Germany's Ippen.Media mastered content planning across 86 newsrooms

In her witness statement she said she was “disgusted” that then prime minister Boris Johnson had “intervened and overruled policy” to allow animals and staff from the charity to be evacuated, a claim Mr Johnson had publicly labelled as “complete nonsense”.

At the time Ms Stewart shared the emails, there were questions in the media around whether the Government had prioritised animals over people during the evacuation.

However, she told the tribunal she did not believe that that was what had happened.

She said she shared the emails with the BBC journalist because she believed they showed another story, that Number 10 had intervened in the decision to evacuate the charity’s staff.

“I did not think that was a story,” she said.

“I did not think that was what had happened.

“It was obvious to me what the story was, which was that the prime minister had made the decision.”

She added: “It was absolutely obvious that the prime minister’s lying was the important element of the story here.”

She said she was foolish not to redact the email when she sent it.

“I accept that I was foolish and naive for having shared the information with the journalist because I failed to redact it fully myself and it led to the situation we are all in today,” she said.

“I do not think I did the wrong thing.”

She said she did not think of herself as a whistleblower when she shared the emails.

“I now know that no one ever does until they have had the time to understand what has happened to them.”

Nowzad was set up by former Royal Marine Paul “Pen” Farthing, who launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out of Kabul as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan.

Despite the alleged intervention from No 10, Nowzad’s staff eventually fled Afghanistan to Pakistan rather than on a plane from Kabul, but the charity’s animals were able to leave on a charter flight with Mr Farthing.

Topics in this article :

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network