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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Aired July 18, 2003 - 19:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Christopher Dickey, from "Newsweek" magazine. Welcome to CNN'S INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we bring together leading journalists to examine media coverage around the world.
The row between the BBC and 10 Downing Street has taken a dramatic turn. At the time this program was recorded, the man named by the British government as a possible source for a BBC report on Iraqi arms intelligence had gone missing.

David Kelly disappeared Thursday after telling his wife he was going for a walk. The government believed the scientist and Ministry of Defense adviser was the source for a news story that claimed Downing Street sexed up intelligence to justify the war.

Police say they found the body of a male Friday near Kelly's home.

This story turns the spotlight on journalists and their sources, and here to discuss that further is the managing editor of "The Financial Times," Andrew Gowers, and in the studio, Julia Hartley-Brewer, the political editor of "The Sunday Express."

This is obviously a very grim turn of events in what had seemed a kind of inside Westminster sort of story. Do you think there's going to be a lot of talk now, if indeed this is Kelly's body that's been found, about the pressure that was put on him and especially about the pressure that's put on sources and journalists to reveal sources? This man was hauled in front of a committee and made to testify because people thought that he had told in confidence to a reporter something quite important about the way this nation was taken to war.

ANDREW GOWERS "FINANCIAL TIMES": I think there is, and I think it turns what has previously been a sort of inside story of who told what to whom into a personal strategy and probably a political scandal of the highest order.

It seems that Dr. Kelly was placed under the most intolerable pressure of publicity, but also of interrogation in parliament, and I think people will want to know exactly the chain of events that led to his outing as the possible source of the BBC and then to his interrogation by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and I think anybody who saw him at the time that he made that testimony would have seen that he was looking a very cowed individual indeed.

And I think there will be people who will find in this somewhere the hand of Alistair Campbell who, after all, as Tony Blair's top communications director was really running this campaign against the BBC and ultimately against its sources.

DICKEY: Julia, why do you think they didn't just let this story drop? Wouldn't everybody have forgotten this if Alistair Campbell hadn't gone after the BBC?

JULIA HARTLEY-BREWER, "SUNDAY EXPRESS": They would have. There's no question at all. I mean, this is not a subject that's being talked about in the pubs and clubs of Britain, but it is now. And they've brought this on themselves.

I mean, there'll be people certainly claiming, as he says, you know, Alistair Campbell will have blood on his hands, for outing this guy effectively through the MOD (ph) and claiming that he is a source.

I think the government was desperately trying to turn attention away from the big issue, the big question about whether or not the public had been duped over being taken into a war that they mostly didn't want. And I think that what they've managed to do is they've managed to put all the attention on this tiny, tiny little matter, of a report that was maybe heard by a few hundred thousand, maybe a million people, many months ago, by one reporter, and they've managed to turn this -- it's dancing on a pinhead.

And as you say, most of the British people aren't that interested in it, and they will be now. And the government has really fallen on its face on this one.

DICKEY: Andrew, do you think there's any way out of this for the government as a matter of fact, maybe by shifting the blame on to the press and saying the real problem was that the BBC perhaps didn't report as accurately as it should have on this issue?

GOWERS: Well, I think if they try to do that, and only that, then they will be not only shooting themselves in both feet, but also the head as well.

I mean, the fact of the matter is that it's not entirely clear whether the original report on the BBC was wholly accurate. That is to be sure. But to equate report that may or may not have been 100 percent right with a witch hunt against its source that ultimately led to his death would be a quite extraordinary distortion of reality.

The fact of the matter is, there are questions to be asked about this particular story. But only as part of the much bigger picture of the intelligence and the use of intelligence that led to war, and the particular events within government that led to the outing of this source, and I would suggest that an inquiry will need urgently to be held into some aspect of those two sets of events.

DICKEY: Well, David Kelly, when he was testifying, said that he volunteered to come forward. He saw these stories and he said, "Well, I'll just go tell what I know."

Do you believe that -- Julia.

HARTLEY-BROWER: I don't believe that. I don't think anyone believes that.

I also don't think anyone believes that he was the original source of the BBC story. He certainly denied it and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in their own report said they didn't think that he was the, you know, source of the story. He wasn't senior enough, he didn't know enough -- although he had met the journalist on the same day in a hotel. He was possibly one of the sources, if that.

No, I don't think he remotely came forward because he wanted to. He was quite clearly a man who was very private. He was a man who just got on with his job. He was a scientist. He wasn't a public official at all. And I think he was absolutely horrified by having the media spotlight and all of us ravenous journalists outside his house, wanting to know who he was, what he did and what he'd said to someone on a particular date.

I think he was horrified by that, and I think the pressure of that has been overwhelming for him and his family. So I don't think he came forward out of his own choice. He came forward because he was forced to by people in the Ministry of Defense. Now who put the pressure on them is what's obviously going to be the subject of this independent judicial inquiry, which the Ministry of Defense has actually now announced, and hopefully that will actually get to the bottom of this.

DICKEY: Do you think there's an effort here, Andrew, to put a chill on reporting generally -- basically to say, "If you talk to reporters and you tell them something we don't like, we, the government, are going to come after you"?

GOWERS: Yes, I'm sure that that will be one aspect of it, that civil servants held in unauthorized conversations, or so to say, with journalists, will probably think twice before doing so, and the government will use this to warn everyone.

But as a matter of fact, I don't think that government relations with the press can function at all purely based on the propaganda being put into the public domain by Alistair Campbell and his ilk.

The whole fabric of relations between the press and government function on a whole series of informal conversations which although are formally unauthorized in this sort of Victorian, hypocritical kind of way, everybody knows they take place, and everybody is happy to live with that. If that grinds to a halt, then we're in real trouble.

HARTLEY-BROWER: And it usually, of course, works to the benefit of the government, whether it's a cabinet minister or a press officer or an adviser to a cabinet minister, or even just a backbench Labor MP. Most of them don't want to speak on the record when they're speaking about Tony Blair, when being very critical on this issue, and I think this is a very, very important issue for British journalism, is that, you know, whoever the source was, whether it was David Kelly or not, they were speaking out in public because they felt concern.

This is a matter of public interest, whether or not, you know, two or three dozen British soldiers died in a war that was brought on the British people without their consent, but using information that was questionable. Now, whether or not you back the war, that's what actually happened, and that's going to be a major issue for British journalism in the future.

DICKEY: And yet one does have a nagging doubt about this story, that it may have been Mr. Gilligan, the BBC reporter, who sexed up the report that he gave on the air. What do you say to that -- Andrew.

GOWERS: Well, as I say, I'm not 100 percent sure about that story on the BBC. I think that if Kelly was the source for it, he was not of sufficient authority and of a sufficient level really, or even access to information, to have been able to substantiate all the things that Andrew Gilligan put into that report.

So he may have sexed it up, and he's probably got some questions to answer too. But I really do think that we have to keep these things in proportion, that events can seem in one particular light on one day and further information comes to light another day that puts that in to a different sort of perspective.

The idea that this should be some kind of excuse for changing the whole basis on which journalists work with their sources is completely absurd and contrary to the free flow of information in a democracy.

DICKEY: Thank you, Andrew. Thank you, Julia.

This story is developing. Stay tuned to WORLD NEWS on CNN throughout the weekend for the very latest developments.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, could this Pakistani child be the hope for relations between India and Pakistan? The Indian press seem to think so.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DICKEY: You're watching INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.

Images of war are easy to come by around the world, but pictures that give hope for peace seem to be much harder to find.

Well, this week one extraordinary story gripped India resulting in an outpouring of affection from the country's press and it was lavished on the most unusual people, a Pakistani child.

CNN's New Delhi bureau chief Satinder Bindra has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): This radio disc jockey is the latest to be smitten by young Noor Atama (ph). She talks to her audience about the Pakistani toddler whose heart surgery earlier this week lasted six hours, keeping this country of 1 billion people on the edge of their seats.

Doctors say Noor Atama (ph) is expected to make a full recovery. The little girl has become the media's youngest heartthrob, and the editor of one of India's largest newspapers says he'll continue running Noor's (ph) story on his front page.

VIN SANGHVY, "HINDUSTAN TIMES": The people of india, the message we are sending out is that we want to help. We love ordinary Pakistanis. We don't want children to be caught up in this crossfire between political leaders.

BINDRA: All of this media attention is putting pressure on Noor's (ph) doctors. They say the advance (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the life-saving surgery by a day because of concerns they would be mobbed by journalists covering this heart-stopping story.

This video was provided by doctors. It shows the Pakistani girl and her family in a relaxed mood, confident and willing to trust the life of their daughter to Indian doctors, even with the leadership of both countries barely on speaking terms.

Over the past 50 years, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, but none of that mattered to these Indian doctors who won their nation's gratitude by saving Noor Atama's (ph) life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really pray that she does well and I hope that she comes through.

BINDRA: Touched by all the media coverage, school children have been offering special prayers. Others continue sending cards and donations to Noor (ph) and her family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm feeling great. I'm very, very happy. I'm satisfied with the job the surgeons have done so far.

BINDRA: Noor's (ph) family says they want to use all the money they've received to setup a special trust fund.

(On camera): It's called the Friendship Fund. Noor's (ph) parents say it will help poor children, especially young Pakistanis like their daughter, get life-saving treatment in a country whose people they say have welcomed them with open hearts.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DICKEY: To discuss this further, I'm joined now in New Delhi by Nachi Karkari, a resident editor of "Times of India," and Shahed Sadullah, editor of the Pakistani English daily newspaper "The News," here in the studio.

Thank you both for joining us.

Nachi, is this really a significant event? Have hearts been moved so profoundly in India, do you believe, toward Pakistan, as a result of this story?

NACHI KARKARI, "TIMES OF INDIA": You know, the kind of response that we've got to this story has been incredible and the nice thing about it is that newspapers and correspondents themselves have been part of this whole fanatic story, and they've got excited about it. They've been touched by it.

And as you know, journalists are a pretty cynical lot.

DICKEY: Well, yes they are. So I wanted to ask you, Shahed, do you think that this is the kind of thing that has lasting political effect? Or is it a drama that comes and goes, leaves people with warmer hearts, but leaves the border still a very troubled area?

SHAHED SADULLAH, "THE NEWS": I think very much the latter, that would be my opinion, really.

I mean, the big thing about this thing was that it came about at the right time. This was not the first Pakistani child to be operated on in this very hospital in India. This very doctor has done about 50 operations on Pakistani children.

But little Noor Atama (ph) came along on the first bus that was going from Pakistan to India after a gap of over two years, so all the media attention was on the bus, and they couldn't -- I don't think there could be a better image than a child two years old going for a life-saving operation.

I think that said, it has to be pointed out that much of the outpouring of feeling -- the operation itself was in Banglore (ph), which is in the south of India, and that is not the Hindi heartland that decides who rules India and who does not rule India. It's not the site of a support base of the Hindu fundamentalist party, the Junta Party. And I therefore do not know how much all this is going to really effect the peace process in the long-term.

DICKEY: Nachi, what do you think? I mean, when you humanize the enemy, as it were, it always does make a difference, doesn't it, to the way people feel about conflict.

KARKARI: Yes, of course, because I think -- I think the people in India and Pakistan, if I may dare say, are really, you know, not about war. They really are about peace, and we find this message over and over again.

It's not just when an isolated event, like a Delhi-Lahore bus or a Lahore-Delhi bus take place. On the street, at the street level, you know, we've had generations now of post-partition (ph) people who have -- who have warmed to each other, and in fact this is really becoming a clich‚, that, you know, that the people have no enmity with each other.

They have a shared history. They have a shared parentage in many cases. They have shared contacts and ties. And I mean, I wouldn't say that something like this was just an act of symbolism. I think it's a very organic and fundamental issue among the people.

And I also think it's a bit unduly cynical from my colleague from Pakistan to say that Banglore (ph) is not in the Hindi heartland, because based in new Delhi now, as I am, and having come from Bombay, where I came make a contrast and see the picture, I mean, I think Delhi has warmed to this bus in a way that, you know, that's -- that's not amazing, but certainly heart-warming, because you must remember that the people of Delhi have been closer to Pakistan, you know, as people. I mean they, the six who came during partition (ph), were the people who landed here. So, you know, they would be the ones who would be, you know, more difficult to assuage, and that is not true.

I mean, the kind of stories that we've heard about the bus, about people who want to go there, the way our correspondent who went on the bus from Delhi to Lahore, the kind of questions that were put to her.

So, I mean, I think the whole of India has taken Noor Atama (ph) to heart and Noor Atama (ph) really is one story. She is not the only story.

DICKEY: Well, that certainly would be good news, but Shahed, what's the reaction in Pakistan to the reaction in India? Do they think people are going overboard in India?

SADULLAH: Well, you know, there have been a lot of exchanges in the recent past at the people to people level.

There have been teams of journalists, teams of parliamentarians, teams of young people going across, and I dare say that all of that has created a very good impressions on both sides of the border.

And when you look at these situations, obviously, on a people to people level, people do not have any enmity with each other. The people of England didn't have any enmity with the German people, but by Jobe did they do a good job of killing each other? Yes, they did.

So, to look at it from that point of view is, I think, rather superficial, may I say. These stories give a very good heart-warming feeling, and I would say that any story, any story, which sort of creates the good will -- the feel-good factor in India-Pakistan relations, is a very positive development.

Will that lead to a lasting peace between the two countries? I think we are jumping miles and miles and miles across here.

DICKEY: Well, do you think that there's going to be an effort to follow up on this story, to do more of these kinds of stories, or maybe just to continue following up on the story of the little girl, Noor?

SADULLAH: Well, I think that the story of the little girl, purely from a journalistic point of view, will have follow-up stories coming up every now and then -- how the girl is getting along when she goes back to Pakistan. Maybe a year later she might come back to India for a check up or whatever. Those stories will be followed.

But as I said, you know, she's not the first child to be treated in India, and I think she just happened to come along at the right time. It was caught by the media. It took the people's imagination. How long it keeps the people's imagination will be a totally different story.

DICKEY: Can you imagine Pakistan reacting to an Indian child in the same way -- the Pakistani press?

SADULLAH: Absolutely. Absolutely, without any problem whatsoever. I think that would be -- it would have evoked exactly the same sort of a response, but again, would that lead to a lasting settlement, especially of the central dispute over Kashmir, which has divided the two countries? That is a very, very far bridge to cross.

DICKEY: Nachi, I want to thank you very much, and Shahed, also, very much, for being with us today.

That's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the world's media are reporting the news.

I'm Christopher Dickey. Thanks for joining us.

END

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