John Sweeney and those behind the Panorama programme have questions to answer, as do all their apologists. Firstly, John Sweeney wants the license fee payers to shrug our shoulders at the complaints by the LSE and the students because nothing went wrong. Let us consider what we are being asked to do here.
John Sweeney and his team accept that students lives and liberty were indeed put at very serious risk. One of those behind the programme (I think it was Ceri Thomas) told Shaun Ley on BBC Radio Four’s The World This Weekend earlier today that as far as he is concerned, putting the lives of eighteen year old students at risk is a price worth paying. Who the hell is he or anyone else at the BBC to make that judgement on behalf of eighteen year old students or anyone else?
This recklessness constitutes de facto tolerance of manslaughter, or potential manslaughter. If innocent bystanders prove collateral damage due to lack of care on the part of the Panorama team, rather than a deliberate act to harm anyone, then we should not really care, according to those who made this programme. Actually, we should care. And we do care. The fact that anyone at the BBC is actually raising such an argument proves that something has to be done to tackle what is clearly a serious problem at the BBC.
Some of Panorama’s apologists are saying that whatever the risks may have been, and whatever crimes may have been committed by John Sweeney et al, they have the footage now and they need to broadcast it. Really? So those who put people’s lives and liberty at risk should be rewarded for their criminal acts? In what sense is that a deterrent that will see to it that they never do this ever again? They must realise that if they are allowed get away with these criminal acts, others will be encouraged to emulate them. That is why the programme must be pulled. This should not even be a question.
John Sweeney and his acolytes tell us that the students are unharmed, so what is the problem. I’ll tell you what the problem is. Even if the supporters of the North Korean state do not descend into acts of terrorism to punish these young students because they simply do not believe Panorama’s latest account of what happened (and why the hell should they?), what about the psychological damage to those students?
John Sweeney and the rest of the Panorama team are perfectly aware that they could have been caught, and all those who were a party to this charade, or assumed by the North Korean state to have been willing participants, could have been subjected to a show trial, with no rights to clear their name. They would almost certainly have been found guilty, then given life sentences with hard labour thrown in, in a Stalinist hellhole. Potentially, they could have been executed for espionage.
That would be most excellent news for NATO’s warmongers who would seize on something like that to engage in some form of military action. Maybe elements in British Intelligence and their friends in the CIA positively salivated at the prospect of such a thing. Maybe John Sweeney and/or others on the Panorama team were aware that this was a possibility. Maybe John Sweeney and his friends could spell out exactly what they knew about cooperation with intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom, America and elsewhere. The license fee payer deserves an answer to those kinds of questions. Maybe there should be a public inquiry?
When the LSE students imagine how John Sweeney and the Panorama team put their lives at risk, it might hit them and that might lead to serious trauma at some later date. John Sweeney must realise that. And the fact that this trauma has not manifested itself immediately does not prove that it is not going to catch up with them at a later date. Nightmares, depression. God knows what.
Did the students offer informed consent. Initially, John Sweeney and his pals pretended that they definitely did. We now realise that this was yet another lie from a very shady team. We are told that the extent of the risk was withheld from them as a kind of plausible deniability. However, we know the North Korean authorities may simply have refused to accept the truth about how the students were kept in the dark by John Sweeney and the rest of the Panorama team.
If the BBC shoves out this programme, then that proves that the station’s standards are plunging into the gutter. This is the cheapest tabloid indifference to the lives of innocent bystander. Heads should definitely roll.