Martin Bashir, a journalist, has attributed the controversy over his interview with Princess Diana to professional jealousy. He also suggested that his class and race played a part in the scandal. These comments were made in 2020, prior to the broadcasting of documentaries examining the 1995 interview. The BBC released approximately 3,000 emails related to the interview following a freedom of information request. In 2021, an inquiry found that Bashir had used deception and falsified documents to secure the interview.
Investigative journalist Andy Webb requested the release of these emails, alleging that BBC managers attempted to cover up Bashir’s actions in 1995. The BBC denied any allegations of bad faith. In a 2020 email, Bashir denied that forged documents played a role in securing the interview and suggested that the controversy might have been less if a more established journalist had conducted it.
Bashir also claimed that he received praise from the staff of the then-Prince of Wales for not discussing the interview publicly. He resigned from his position as the BBC’s religion editor shortly before a report criticizing the BBC’s handling of claims about his tactics was published.
The released emails are heavily redacted, leading Webb to suggest that the BBC was withholding crucial internal evidence related to the investigations into the interview. The BBC maintains that it acted in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and denies any allegations of bad faith.
Webb requested to see emails exchanged between BBC managers about Bashir in 2020. The BBC initially disclosed some messages but later revealed there were a total of 3,288 emails. The corporation claimed these contained information that was either irrelevant or legally privileged. However, in December, a judge ordered the BBC to release them due to inconsistencies and errors in their initial response.
The BBC has reportedly spent over £126,525 on legal costs challenging the release of the emails. Webb believes their publication is in the public interest and could reveal attempts by senior BBC managers to cover up the scandal. Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, has supported Webb’s investigation and criticized the BBC for spending on legal fees while making budget cuts.
Bashir left the BBC following questions about how he secured the interview with Diana, which was watched by over 20 million people and considered a significant achievement for the BBC. An independent inquiry led by Lord Dyson found that Bashir used deception to secure the interview and lied to BBC managers. Bashir has admitted to creating fake documents but denies they influenced Diana’s decision to be interviewed.