Guardian Investigative Journalism
- Thu, 21 Nov 2013 12:55:00 +0000: Tory MP returns to environment role after being cleared of abusing position - Media: Investigative journalism | theguardian.com
Tim Yeo to chair influential Commons environment committee again as MPs criticise Sunday Times sting
Tory MP Tim Yeo has been cleared of allegations he abused his position as chairman of the Commons energy committee to further the interests of his business contacts.
MPs on the standards committee said Yeo had not breached any rules and the only misrepresentation had been committed by Sunday Times reporters who posed as potential clients in a sting operation.
The senior Tory, a champion of green issues, will return as chairman after stepping aside and referring himself to the committee for investigation in June.
The Sunday Times had reported he told undercover journalists he could lobby ministers on behalf of a company. He was also alleged to have coached an executive on what to say when giving evidence to his committee.
The standards committee report by a cross-party group of MPs said it "deplored" stings but would "not hesitate to act in such cases if wrongdoing had occurred".
They reserved their strongest criticism for the newspaper, saying: "We note the severe damage which is done to public trust by journalism which rests on a basis of subterfuge, misrepresentation and selective quotation.
"Media investigations can have a role to play in ensuring high standards of public conduct but we note that in this case Mr Yeo has broken no rules and the only misrepresentation has been that of the journalists themselves."
In a statement, Yeo said: "I welcome this report. After a full investigation, the parliamentary standards commissioner accepted, as I have always maintained, that I did not break the rules of the house.
"This investigation included a thorough examination of the full video-recording produced – after a six-week delay – to the commissioner by the Sunday Times.
"Based on what I actually said, rather than what I was reported by the newspaper to have said, the commissioner found and the committee confirms that I have not acted in breach of the code of conduct."
The standards committee also ruled this month that there was insufficient evidence to mount an investigation into allegations that Tory MP Mark Pritchard exploited foreign contacts to set up business deals. The claim followed a similar undercover sting by the Daily Telegraph.
In June, Peter Cruddas, the former Tory treasurer, won a libel lawsuit against the Sunday Times over a story falsely alleging he was prepared to take improper donations following an undercover sting. The newspaper is appealing against the decision.
- Tue, 19 Nov 2013 11:41:00 +0000: Alexander Lebedev has a new role - as an investigative journalist - Media: Investigative journalism | theguardian.com
Alexander Lebedev, the man who bought The Independent and London Evening Standard, has taken on a newspaper job. He has become head of the investigative team at his Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reports the New York Times.
Lebedev's journalistic ambition is to expose the fraud that has led to the circulation of some £15 trillion of so-called "dirty money" across the globe.
Among those who are alleged to have profited from this fraudulent activity are people Lebedev blames for causing his financial problems.
Lebedev is quoted by the NY Times as saying: "All the western world thinks the Kremlin was behind these attacks, but not me. It was the doing of an organised band of thugs."
He said he began investigating fraud in Russian banks and businesses long ago. "I took cover as a banker," he said (with a smile).
That cover is no longer relevant because it is one of the business reverses that prompts the paper to contend that "Lebedev is no longer the billionaire Forbes magazine once said he was." The piece continues:
"His bank, National Reserve Bank, has been gutted. His airline, Red Wings, was sold off for a ruble… He has even openly questioned whether he can still afford to prop up his news media properties."
But the article does not point out that Lebedev's financial problems were lifted somewhat this month with the sale of his 4.5% stake in the Russian airline Aeroflot.
According to RIA Novosti's Prime news agency, the shares were sold for over three billion rubles (£58m).
He also owns, as the NY Times does report, what is claimed to be the largest potato farm in Europe. It's in the region of Tula, where Lebedev is serving out his sentence of 150 hours of community service, repairing kindergartens, for punching a man on a TV talk show.
Lebedev, as he so often does, tells the paper that he doesn't like being called an oligarch. He refers to his new newspaper role when saying:
"I'm not an oligarch because I ran out of steam. Besides, I don't want to be burdened by business interests, which could be seen as a conflict of interest. I'm just a normal deputy editor."
It would also appear that he wishes to mend fences with the president, Vladimir Putin. He wrote to the Russian government - among others - to outline the destabilising effects of "dirty money" and received a pro forma reply.
"I want to be seen as looking to the Kremlin as an ally," he said.
- Fri, 15 Nov 2013 10:00:44 +0000: Toronto Star was right to pay for video of mayor's drunken rant - Media: Investigative journalism | theguardian.com
Roy Greenslade on why he backs the Star's editor and publisher for opening the paper's chequebook to obtain remarkable video footage
- Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:47:47 +0000: Brian Barr obituary - Media: Investigative journalism | theguardian.com
Journalist and documentary film-maker whose investigations brought him into conflict with police and government
The Scottish documentary film-maker Brian Barr, who has died aged 70 from cancer, was one of those journalists for whom integrity was more important than self-promotion or material reward. In 1986, Brian helped reveal one of Britain's greatest postwar security scandals, when he and the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell exposed the existence of a £500m spy satellite which the government had somehow omitted to mention to parliament – Project Zircon. Working on a tipoff, they confirmed the existence of the project by putting a surprise question, during a filmed interview, to a visibly shocked government scientist, Professor Sir Ronald Mason.
Afterwards, special branch officers raided the Glasgow headquarters of BBC Scotland in the middle of the night and seized all film related to the programme, which had been made for the Secret Society series. This ignited one of the most explosive confrontations between the Thatcher government and the BBC, and played a major role in the resignation of the director general, Alasdair Milne, in 1987. The government took out an injunction preventing transmission of the film, but after a number of unauthorised screenings by anti-censorship campaigners it was eventually shown by the BBC in 1988. Brian always loved to quote the Paisley Daily Express headline "Ex-Paisley choirboy in spy scandal".
Brian was born in Paisley to Anna Cattanach and James Barr. His father was musical director of the Glasgow Corporation and Brian took up the oboe at Paisley grammar school. This and his love of swimming perhaps accounted for his extraordinary lung capacity. On arduous excursions in the Scottish mountains, he would intimidate everyone by putting in a five-mile run before breakfast.
Brian was, as he put it, "somewhat over-educated", having degrees in law and philosophy from Glasgow University. But he never seriously thought of becoming a lawyer, and his interest in philosophy was, he once told me, ignited by a desire to get better acquainted with the woman who was to become his first wife, Jean. They married in 1968 and had a son, Colin, who also became a documentary maker.
The intellectual discipline Brian acquired at university was put to good use. He had an extraordinary ability to assimilate a vast quantity of information and render it intelligible. His career began in that incubator of Scottish journalists, the Sunday Post of DC Thomson in Dundee. He progressed to the role of leader writer at the Glasgow Herald in the early 1970s before leaving to edit a community newspaper, the Glasgow News, which he sold around the city's bars and restaurants at weekends.
In 1975, he joined BBC Scotland as a reporter on the weekly documentary series Current Account. His films explored issues such as asbestosis in Clyde shipyards and lead in Glasgow's water supply. His coverage of the workers' occupation of the Scottish Daily Express, and its brief rebirth as the Scottish Daily News, won widespread acclaim and led to a book, The Story of the Scottish Daily News, co-written with Ron McKay and published in 1976.
Brian was not politically partisan, but his approach to authority was uncompromising and this inevitably clashed with the safety-first culture of BBC Scotland. Other films in the Secret Society series produced by Brian included The Secret Constitution, about cabinet committees; We're All Data Now, about data banks; In Time of Crisis, about government emergency powers; and A Gap in Our Defences, about botched radar contracts.
Brian's contribution to broadcast journalism was greater than his actual film credits, though these are substantial enough. He made fine films from many of the world's conflict zones for BBC programmes such as Panorama and Assignment, and for Channel 4.
He seemed to have a magnetic attraction for the police. I recall going on assignment with him into the seedy underworld of Glasgow's sex industry and arriving with cameras at an illegal club at the moment it was about to be raided by Strathclyde police. This was pure coincidence – but the police believed otherwise. In the 1990s, when filming for the Channel 4 series Secret Places at RAF Chicksands in Bedfordshire, Brian was apprehended by armed US soldiers and then detained by Biggleswade police for 12 hours. He was arrested by the Israel Defence Forces, incarcerated by police in Algeria and nearly shot for trying to attach a microphone to Yasser Arafat in Palestine.
Brian was completely fearless, whether scrabbling up rock faces in the Scottish highlands or filming in war zones. His greatest professional weakness was an inability to deal with bureaucrats and line managers. Like many Scottish film-makers, he found it increasingly difficult to get commissions in his later years. However, he never stopped working – co-writing a book on the river Spey with his brother Donald and making community films in the Isle of Bute where he mostly lived. Almost all those who worked with him through his long career felt they learned from him and were inspired by his example.
Brian is survived by his second wife, Pat, whom he married three days before he died, and by his son, Colin, from his marriage to Jean, which ended in divorce in 1999.
• Brian Barr, documentary film-maker, born 21 November 1942; died 29 October 2013
- Mon, 04 Nov 2013 10:43:04 +0000: Toronto Star praised for investigative scoop about city's mayor - Media: Investigative journalism | theguardian.com
Paper spent months on crack cocaine video inquiry