The BBC has been ordered by an American court to surrender unused footage filmed for a documentary about former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to American victims of suicide bombings in Israel. In a ruling which raises questions about the ability of the American justice system to seize material held by media organisations outside the United States, a judge in New York said the Corporation was obliged to hand over outtakes from interviews with two Palestinian fighters.
...The material is being sought by lawyers representing victims and relatives of those killed by suicide bombs in attacks around Jerusalem. The group is attempting to bring a civil damages claim against the Palestinian Authority and others for allegedly funding terrorist groups behind the bombings. The victims believe that the BBC interviews with a leader of Fatah, the political movement founded by Arafat, and an alleged terrorist in the Al Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank city of Jenin, contain statements which will help prove a link between the bombings and the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
the recordings were not confidential and not covered by “journalistic privilege” designed to protect reporters’ investigations. Judge Ronald Ellis said: “The outtakes are not confidential material because the BBC is free to disseminate any portions of the interviews... Although the court is sceptical of a ‘smoking gun’ presenting itself in these outtakes, the standard for relevance to overcome the journalistic privilege is low and the outtakes meet this lower standard.”
The judgment will have the effect of forcing a non-American broadcaster to surrender unbroadcast footage from a documentary - Arafat Investigated - made almost a decade ago for a British audience.