Interview: Paul Lashmar on UK: “They want to close down journalistic access to intelligence and security sources”


Interview for The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

by Jane Whyatt

In light of the UK Law Commission’s proposal for legislation that would treat whistleblowers as foreign spies and put convicted reporters in prison possibly for 14 years – among other rights violations – the ECPMF has interviewed University of Sussex’s Paul Lashmar at length.

After a successful career as an investigative reporter and news producer, Lashmar obtained his PhD from Brunel University. His research has dealt with the relationship between the media and secret (state) intelligence.

ECPMF: As an investigative journalist, what are your main concerns about what is proposed?

I work from the simple premise that a free inquiring press (news media) is vital for democracy. This is an untidy process but it sort of works better than any other model, a bit like democracy. As I have often said the news media have been the only effective oversight mechanism for intelligence. This is historically proven.


to read the full interview


Was Countdown’s Richard Whiteley a MI5 agent as Ricky Tomlinson says?

Tomlinson’s suggestion looks a bit potty at first but when you drill down the story becomes very disturbing. He says that the ‘red scare’ programme made by Whiteley and presented by Woodrow Wyatt MP for ITN in 1973 influenced the jury to convict him for charges out of his trade union activity. The programme was broadcast the day before.
I have no idea whether Richard Whiteley was a MI5 asset. I do know about Woodrow Wyatt, once a Labour MP. Have a look at the co-authored book/ Lashmar, P and Oliver. J. (1998) Britain’s Secret Cold War Propaganda War 1948-1977. Stroud: Sutton Pub Ltd.

This is book about the cold war propaganda organisation IRD based in the Foreign Office and that was closely connected to MI6 and MI5. Wyatt was a key external link for IRD and the agencies what we call an agent of influence. He, like a number of establishment figures, was a director of news agencies in an international network of MI6/IRD covert operations. (see page 80). Wyatt was a major outlet for IRD anti-communist material (which of course extended to anti left wing trade unionist activity).

IRD Book Cover

A senior member of IRD Norman Reddaway told us about Wyatt’s importance as (to use E P Thompson’s description of Chapman Pincher) a ‘urinal’ for IRD leaks (see page 106). For an example of Wyatt’s involvement in covert anti left operations channelled through a part of the TUC (which also involved Denis Healey) (see page 111). Wyatt wrote at least one book for an IRD covert funded book series (pg 119) and utilised it secret information channels and connections to push his increasingly rightward views. IRD was a career ramp for many MPs, authors and academics providing them with secret resources denied people they did not agree with.

It would be interesting to know whether Wyatt was paid for his IRD work while  a Labour MP as this would have been illegal (see page 118). Wyatt is a singularly inappropriate person to front a programme (as an ‘objective reporter’) without declaring his long standing covert involvement with intelligence agencies. Wyatt was part of a MacCarthyite anti communist cabal who would have seen any vigorous trade union activity as the work of Stalin’s fellow travellers rather than what was mostly the case the grievances of men working in a badly paid and highly dangerous industry. We also now know that the major construction companies were signed up to secret blacklisting organisations.   Also in the programme was Geoffrey Stewart Smith was for a while an Conservative MP and a famous anti communist and may well have been presented in the programme that way.

IRD ITV mar 2017 (2)

Private Eye this week suggests that IRD actually funded the programme which, even at the time, would have been outrageous and broken all the broadcasting regulations and was probably illegal. It would interesting to see the programme now to see how honourably it’s  presenter Wyatt employed the required levels of objectivity, impartiality and balance.  If anyone can confirm IRD paid for the programme I would be fascinated. I have to take the view that Whiteley was the ITV ‘safe pair of hands’ person assigned to script and edit the programme until there is hard evidence otherwise. Fascinating how, after all these years IRD insidious legacy pops up.



Threats to journalists and their sources a new report (PL involved).

The Institute for Advanced Legal Studies launched their short report on whistleblower and source protection in the House of Lords yesterday:

The Guardian, which supported the research, has covered it here:

Includes a response from Government along the lines of nothing to worry about, trust us.


My tribute to Gavin MacFadyen of TCIJ published in Three-D

Three-D Issue 27: Gavin MacFadyen Obituary


Just occasionally a cliché does the job, and as John Pilger said of the late Gavin MacFadyen, at the memorial to Gavin in December: “They don’t make them like that anymore”. Gavin was in every way larger than life and the obituaries which have appeared in the New York Timesthe Guardian and many other publications reveal a man who lived his 77 years to the full. He was a 1960s radical embodied. His adult life was devoted to causing grief to the corrupt, the greedy, and the complacent. Whatever the mission it was conducted as an adventure – with gusto, mischief and a booming laugh.

to read more: