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July 22, 2020updated 23 Jul 2020 1:55pm

Journalist John Ware pursues legal action against Jeremy Corbyn after Labour settles over Panorama anti-Semitism programme smears

By PA Mediapoint and Press Gazette

Investigative journalist John Ware is taking legal action against Jeremy Corbyn after the former Labour leader said it was “disappointing” the party had apologised to the Panorama reporter over his anti-Semitism investigation.

Labour has agreed to pay substantial damages to Ware over allegations it made following the broadcast of his programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” on BBC One in July 2019.

At a brief hearing in London, Labour apologised for falsely accusing him of “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public”.

Barrister William Bennett QC, representing Ware and seven whistleblowers featured in the programme, said Labour had alleged that 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”.

In a further statement, Labour acknowledged Ware is a ” very experienced broadcast and print journalist, producer and author”.

“If we are to restore the trust of the Jewish community, we must demonstrate a change of leadership,” it added.

“That means being open, transparent and respecting the right of whistleblowers and the free press and freedom of expression which includes the right to object to things written or published.”

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Ware has now instructed his lawyer to pursue legal action against former Labour leader Corbyn, who released his own statement condemning the settlement following the court hearing.

Asked if action would be taken arising from Corbyn’s statement, lawyer Mark Lewis, from Patron Law, said: “I can confirm that I have been instructed to pursue cases.”

Labour had also apologised and agreed to pay substantial damages to seven former employees of its governance and legal unit who sued the party after it issued a press release describing them as having “personal and political axes to grind”.

Bennett told Mr Justice Nicklin: “Before the broadcast of the Panorama programme, the Labour Party issued a press release that contained defamatory and false allegations about the whistleblowers.”

Bennett said Labour “accused the whistleblowers of having acted in bad faith during and after their employment with the intention of harming the Labour Party”, allegations he said were “untrue and defamatory”.

He added: “The Labour Party is here today to set the record straight and to apologise unreservedly to the claimants for the distress and embarrassment that the publication of the false allegations have caused them and for the continuing damage that has been caused to their reputations.

In a statement, the BBC said: “The BBC will always support fair and impartial reporting, exposing wrongdoing and holding power to account. The Panorama programme did precisely that, but was subject to an extraordinary and vitriolic attack by the Labour Party.

“We welcome today’s long overdue apology to John Ware and the seven Panorama whistleblowers, who have been subjected to painful and damaging personal attacks on their integrity and character.

“We applaud their strength to take this case forward and are pleased it has been recognised in court that these extremely serious and damaging allegations against them were false and have been unreservedly withdrawn.

“John Ware is a reporter with an extraordinary record of excellence at Panorama for investigative journalism in the public interest.”

In a statement, the claimants’ solicitor Mark Lewis said further actions will be taken against those who repeat the libels.

“Today in the High Court, the Labour Party retracted its false allegations made about the Panorama programme asking whether Labour was anti-Semitic,” he said.

“The answer was a clear ‘yes’. Labour chose to double down and attack the programme’s presenter, John Ware, and the whistleblowers rather than addressing the truth of the problem.”

Picture: BBC

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