Panorama's coverage of 9/11 and the ‘War on Terror'
This source preferred by David McQueen
Authors: McQueen, D.
Editors: Paget, D. and Lacey, S.
Publisher: Cardiff University Press
The BBC requires its journalists to ‘report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly’ (BBC, 2012: 1) yet the Corporation’s flagship current affairs series Panorama’s investigation of the 11 September atrocities and the ensuing ‘War on Terror’ was narrow, factually-flawed and served to amplify hawkish policy prescriptions that ultimately led to ruinous wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Evidence for this view emerges through an examination of four major investigations into Al-Qaeda and the events of 9-11 broadcast between September 2001 and July 2002. Study of these key episodes shows how Panorama’s coverage lacked investigative depth and drew unfounded links between the 9-11 leader Mohamed Atta and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, whilst contributing to an information vacuum around the attacks that helped feed far-fetched conspiracy theories that sprang up in their aftermath.
Other Panorama episodes dealt with the broad subject of terrorism and ‘the War on Terror’ within this period, including three studio debates (‘Britain on the Brink’; ‘War on Terrorism’ and ‘Clash of Cultures’) which have been written about elsewhere (see Cottle, 2002). The focus here, however, is on the quality of the investigative reports that dealt with the traumatic events of September 2001 and their aftermath, events which led to a profound shift in US foreign and security policy, with far-reaching consequences for Britain and the rest of the world (see Norris, Kern and Just, 2003; Moeller, 2004).