No access to BBC's report on Middle East coverage

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The Independent Online

A solicitor yesterday lost his bid to gain access to an internal BBC report on its coverage of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Court of Appeal rejected Stephen Sugar's attempt to overturn an earlier decision by Mr Justice Irwin that the report was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act because the corporation held it for "purposes of journalism, art or literature".

Mr Justice Irwin had found that the Information Tribunal was wrong in law when it held that the report was not covered by the exemption and so should be disclosed to Mr Sugar. The Court of Appeal – the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Moses and Lord Justice Munby – upheld that decision and rejected Mr Sugar's appeal.

The report was written by the BBC journalist Malcolm Balen and covered BBC coverage of the Middle East in 2003 and 2004. It was considered by the BBC's newly established Journalism Board and led to the board making a number of recommendations.

The Master of the Rolls said the Freedom of Information Act allowed that material held by the BBC was disclosable if it was held "for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature". But he accepted that once it was established that the information sought was held by the corporation for the purposes of journalism, it was effectively exempt from production, even if it was also being held for other purposes.