Ready for the court case, are we?
“The truth about John Whittingdale, the prostitute and the ‘cover-up’" tells the title, not getting off to a particularly good start. Articles that have to emblazon “Truth” at their head are often nothing but.
“New details have emerged about the links between the campaigners who revealed the story of John Whittingdale’s relationship with a prostitute”. Those campaigners cannot be Hacked Off, because they did not reveal the story. That was done by reporters.
“The relationship received widespread attention after being broadcast by Newsnight, with critics accusing the BBC of using it to try to damage Mr Whittingdale, who has been critical of the corporation”. Those critics include the Telegraph - this is a circular reference.
“Mr Whittingdale is single and the story had been investigated and rejected by four newspapers as an intrusion of privacy”. Wrong. No reason was given. This is conjecture.
“The website which finally ran the story, Byline.com, is substantially funded by a Chinese billionaire who has attacked independent journalism, defended dictatorship, said the West is ‘morally bankrupt’ and written that its survival ‘may depend… on becoming less democratic’”. Is Gilligan suggesting anyone who backs a publication automatically imposes their views upon it? That has seriously disturbing implications for the Times, Sun, Mail, Express, Daily Star … and Telegraph, given their ownership. I’ll just leave that one there.
“Byline.com’s manager, Peter Jukes, has been paid by the controversial campaign group Hacked Off, which has claimed that newspapers may have withheld the story to threaten Mr Whittingdale”. Jukes may have received contributions to his crowdfunded coverage of the Hacking Trial from Hacked Off. He also had contributions from senior journalists at News International. AND FROM A BLOKE CALLED RUPERT MURDOCH.
Oh, and Hacked Off did not claim that the Whittingdale story had been held back in order to threaten him.
“byline.com worked alongside Hacked Off to promote the story to the BBC and other outlets, which could undermine Mr Whittingdale, who opposes Hacked Off’s demand for state-backed regulation of the press”. Hacked Off does not want state-backed regulation of the press. The group did not work with Byline at all. Byline did not promote the story to the BBC. The only contact Hacked Off had with the BBC was being invited on to comment.
“Many key figures associated with Hacked Off, including former director, Brian Cathcart, write for Byline.com. Max Mosley, a major donor to Hacked Off, has also funded Byline.com”. Byline has four major funders, none of whom is Max Mosley. Those who support work that is published there are funding those writing the work - not Byline itself.
“Mr Jukes says that Byline.com is liberating journalism from being a ‘tool’ of ‘wealthy, tax-shy billionaires’ to becoming an agent of ‘democracy.’ He claims the site is ‘crowdfunded’ by small donations from readers”. Byline’s contributors ARE supported by crowdfunding. There is no editorial intervention or prior restraint - this includes the first Whittingdale article by Nick Mutch, which was published solely on his initiative.
“However, Companies House records show that almost all the site’s £540,000 funding in fact comes from three billionaires”. See previous paragraph.
“Mr Mosley … has given large sums to Impress, the body seeking to become a state-backed regulator of the press”. Wrong. The Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust has given money to another charitable trust. And IMPRESS is not a state-backed regulator.
“Byline.com has promoted and defended a number of other conspiracy theories for which there is little evidence. These include the now discredited claims of a ‘Westminster child sex abuse ring’ involving prominent establishment figures”. That’s the claims that are still being investigated, and which have been covered at length by many newspapers - including the Telegraph. And Byline did not push this story, only coming in late last year with some commentary and analysis.
“The site shares a number of journalists, including Mr Jukes, with Exaro, the ‘investigative website’”. Wrong. Byline does not employ journalists, and nor, as far as is known, does Exaro, so no sharing takes place. Peter Jukes once had one article published by Exaro. David Hencke, formerly of the Guardian and probably Gilligan’s target, has been published at Byline, but so have many others.
“In breaking the Whittingdale story, on 1 April, Byline.com claimed that it was revealing ‘blackmail from [the] criminal underworld’”. Wrong. This is what Nick Mutch’s article said: “Whittingdale’s relationships with prostitutes are said to be well known in the London underworld and could potentially leave him exposed to blackmail considering his senior position in the Government [but] there is no evidence or suggestion that Ms. King ever attempted to blackmail Whittingdale”. Another Gilligan whopper.
“In fact, Mr Whittingdale was not a minister at the time of the relationship, though he was chair of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee. The affair lasted less than half a year and the site later admitted that Ms King’s supposed connections to the underworld were ‘rumours’ which ‘remain as yet unsubstantiated’”. No such admission has been made, and there will be further revelations.
“In the week that followed, senior figures in Hacked Off and Mr Jukes tried to interest the mainstream media in the story”. Not true. Hacked Off made no comment during the week following Nick Mutch’s story.
“Hacked Off’s joint executive director, Evan Harris, claimed on Saturday night that ‘we gave our view publicly only when we got a call from Newsnight the very evening that it was to break the story’”. How would Gilligan know? He didn’t speak to Evan Harris. He didn’t speak to Peter Jukes either.
“In fact, Hacked Off issued a press release on 10 April, two days before the Newsnight story, headed ‘Whittingdale and the story no paper will publish,’ referring readers to Byline.com and claiming Mr Whittingdale ‘was potentially exposed to improper pressure from newspaper companies’”. It wasn’t a press release, but a blog post. It merely noted James Cusick’s Byline article, and scrupulously avoided repeating personal details.
“Both Hacked Off and Mr Jukes have been fiercely critical in the past of newspapers for invading the privacy of public figures. In 2014 Mr Jukes wrote that the ‘right to privacy and family life’ was a ‘universal principle’”. Neither have claimed that invading others’ privacy is some kind of automatic right.
“Mr Harris justified Hacked Off’s support for invading Mr Whittingdale’s privacy”. Hacked Off does not support the blanket invasion of privacy. There has to be a public interest justification.
“In fact Mr Whittingdale did not reverse Government policy. It was his predecessor as Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, who said on 25 April 2014 that the Government would take ‘no further role’ in press regulation and it was a ‘decision for the press’ whether or not they agreed to be governed by a state-backed royal charter regulator”. The “state backed” canard is noted - see above. In any case this is not true, see HERE. At the point Javid made his comments, “no further role” meant beyond the implementation of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
“Byline.com’s other main funders are Nicolas Berggruen, who has called for existing political structures in the US to be bypassed by committees of ‘wise men,’ and Jae-woong Lee, a South Korean billionaire who is the father of the site’s founder, Seung-yoon Lee”. Wrong. Just because two South Koreans are called Lee does not mean they are father and son. Gilligan will be saying they all look alike next.
The Telegraph titles are supposed to contain reputable and good quality journalism. But this hatchet job by Andrew Gilligan is merely smears, half-truths, innuendo and flat-out lies from beginning to end. It is predictable. But it is unforgivable. And it’s not good enough.