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October 5, 2022

Panorama journalist John Ware settles libel claim over Labour activist’s Radio 2 attack

By PA Media

John Ware, the journalist who presented a BBC Panorama investigation into the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism allegations, has received an apology from a Jewish members group over defamatory comments made in the wake of its broadcast.

Ware (pictured) has settled a libel claim he brought against Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), its website editor Richard Kuper and media officer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the High Court was told on Tuesday.

The legal action followed the broadcast on 10 July 2019 of a BBC Panorama programme titled: Is Labour Anti-Semitic? – which Wimborne-Idrissi was questioned about when appearing on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show the following day.

During the broadcast, she falsely commented in relation to Ware: “The journalist who did that so-called investigation has a terrible record of Islamophobia, far-right politics, he’s been disciplined at – BBC has had to apologise.”

In a ruling in August last year, Mrs Justice Steyn concluded that the words were defamatory, as was a Facebook post from Wimborne-Idrissi that appeared on JVL’s website.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the court was read a statement on behalf of Wimborne-Idrissi by lawyer Alexandra Cohen.

“I accept the court’s judgment that my comments about John Ware in a live radio programme on the Jeremy Vine show were defamatory,” Wimborne-Idrissi’s statement said.

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“I should not have asserted that the BBC had taken action against Mr Ware in connection with allegations he has engaged in Islamophobia and extreme far right and/or racist politics, nor that this was in any way reflected in his journalistic work.

“I accept these allegations are untrue. JVL and I have apologised unreservedly to Mr Ware and explained that I spoke in the way that I did because I was so angry at the content of the Is Labour Anti-Semitic? programme for which Mr Ware was the reporter.”

William Bennett KC, for Ware, said: “On that basis, the claimant is content to let the matter rest.”

In February last year, Ware won the first round of a separate High Court libel battle over claims that the same Panorama programme was “a piece of rogue journalism”.

Ware is suing Paddy French, editor of the Press Gang blog, over claims the documentary “bent the truth to breaking point”.

The Panorama broadcast featured interviews with a number of whistleblowers who worked in Labour’s governance and legal unit, who were responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by party members.

In an article titled Is The BBC Anti-Labour?, French said the programme “presented just one side of the argument” and accused Ware of “ignoring basic facts”.

In a preliminary ruling, Mr Justice Saini ruled that the meaning of the article was that Ware “is a rogue journalist who had engaged in dirty tricks aimed at harming the Labour Party’s chances of winning the general election by authoring and presenting an edition of Panorama in which he presented a biased and knowingly false presentation of the extent and nature of antisemitism within the party, deliberately ignoring contrary evidence”.

The judge added that “to accuse a journalist of behaving in the manner alleged is clearly defamatory”.

French previously said he was “resolutely committed” to defending the legal action, with a full trial of the libel claim likely to be heard at a later date. French said he will argue that his report was both true and in the public interest.

In July 2020, Labour apologised and agreed to pay “substantial damages” to Ware after it falsely accused him of “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public”.

The party had alleged Ware “invented quotes, flouted journalistic ethics and… knowingly promoted falsehoods” in pursuit of “a pre-determined outcome to the question asked by the Panorama programme”, a court was told.

Ware said in a statement on Tuesday: “I’m pleased that JVL finally agreed to apologise for their demonstrably false accusations.

“This will be the second of two full apologies to be made in open court, arising from a slew of defamatory accusations following the Panorama programme about anti-Semitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

“I accept criticism, obviously, but not blatant lies about me, my motives and my professional integrity.”

Picture: PA Wire/Tom Pilgrim

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