Meirion Jones

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Jones speaking at QEDcon, Manchester, October 2016.

Meirion Jones is a British journalist. He worked for the BBC until 2015. In July 2016 he became Investigations Editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.[1]

In 2013 he won the London Press Awards Scoop of the Year prize for his part in the investigation into Jimmy Savile. In 2010 he won the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Daniel Pearl Award for his investigation of the dumping of Trafigura's toxic waste in Africa.[2] Former Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman described Jones in September 2016 as "a dogged journalist with that obsessional, slightly nutty commitment that marks out all successful investigative reporters".[3] Jones has investigated many subjects including the alleged fixing of the US Presidential Election in 2000, toxic waste dumping in Africa, how Britain helped Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, market-rigging by multinationals, bogus bomb detectors, tsunami aid,[4] terror and security,[5] political scandals[6][7] and financial scams.[8] He also worked with journalist Liz Mackean in late 2011 on a Newsnight investigation into the activities of suspected paedophile Jimmy Savile. Its rejection by their superior, (former) Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, ultimately led to a major scandal.

Early career[edit]

Jones was the first full-time Editor of the Cardiff student paper Gair Rhydd.[9] He worked at Your Computer magazine[10] then freelanced at New Scientist where he wrote about everything from food poisoning to how to phase out the CFCs which at the time were damaging the ozone layer.[11][12] He has also written freelance for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

Investigations[edit]

Mazher Mahmood[edit]

Jones was the joint producer with Owen Phillips of the Panorama about the ex-News of the World undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood called “Fake Sheikh: Exposed”[13] which starting from the case of Tulisa Contostavlos alleged that many of Mazher Mahmood's investigations had been dishonest. The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright unsuccessfully wrote to the BBC asking them not to show the programme, presented by John Sweeney, in case it prejudiced any future trial, and Mahmood unsuccessfully tried to get an injunction to stop Panorama broadcasting recent video of him with no disguise. The broadcast was twice delayed and was finally transmitted on 12 November 2014. Following the programme the Crown Prosecution Service announced that they would reinvestigate 25 cases where people were convicted on Mahmood’s evidence.[14][15] Mazher Mahmood was convicted in October 2016 of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in the Tulisa Contostavlos case and sentenced to 15 months in prison.[16]

Jimmy Savile[edit]

Immediately after Jimmy Savile's death in October 2011 Jones and his colleague Liz MacKean began an investigation for Newsnight into reports that Savile had been a paedophile. They interviewed one victim on camera and others agreed to have their stories told anonymously. The victims alleged abuse at Duncroft approved school in Staines, Stoke Mandeville hospital and the BBC. Jones and MacKean also discovered that Surrey police had investigated allegations of abuse against Savile. The programme was scheduled for broadcast on 7 December 2011 but the film was never shown and the BBC broadcast tributes to Savile at Christmas 2011. The decision to pull the Newsnight investigation eventually led to a major crisis in public trust of the BBC. The later Pollard Review found that Jones and MacKean had found cogent evidence that Savile was an abuser and that the programme could have exposed Savile in 2011 but a flawed decision was made not to broadcast[17] There was no public mention of the Newsnight investigation into Savile at the time but In early 2012, several newspapers reported that BBC had investigated allegations of sexual abuse immediately after Savile's death, but the report was not broadcast. An article by Miles Goslett in The Oldie alleged there had been a cover-up by the BBC.[18] On 3 October 2012, almost a year after Savile's death, ITV broadcast a documentary, Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile,.[19] presented by Mark Williams-Thomas who had been a consultant on the original Newsnight investigation. The programme included the Duncroft, BBC and Stoke Mandeville allegations as well as other claims of abuse by Savile.[20] It was alleged that rumours of Savile's activities had circulated at the BBC in the 1960s and 1970s, but no action had been taken. On 16 October 2012 the Director-General of the BBC, George Entwistle, apologised, and appointed former High Court judge Dame Janet Smith to review the culture and practices of the BBC during the time Savile worked there,[21] and Nick Pollard, a former Sky News executive, to look at why the Newsnight investigation into Savile's activities was dropped shortly before transmission in December 2011.[21] On 22 October 2012, the BBC programme Panorama broadcast an investigation into Newsnight and found evidence suggesting "senior manager" pressure;[22] Jones told Panorama "I was sure the story would come out one way or another and... the BBC would be accused of a cover-up"[23] on the same day Newsnight editor Peter Rippon "stepped down" with immediate effect.[24][25] In March 2013 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary reported that 214 of the complaints that had been made against Savile after his death would have been criminal offences if they had been reported at the time. Sixteen victims reported being raped by Savile under the age of 16 and four of those had been under the age of ten. Thirteen others reported serious sexual assaults by Savile including four under ten-year-olds. Another ten victims reported being raped by Savile while over the age of sixteen.[26] Although Jones's Savile film was never broadcast by the BBC, in 2013 the London Press Awards awarded their Scoop of the Year prize for the Savile investigation jointly to Jones and MacKean, Miles Goslett who had first put the allegations into print, and Williams-Thomas who had made the Exposure documentary.

Trafigura[edit]

Jones made a series of films over three years exposing how toxic waste from the oil trader Trafigura came to be illegally dumped in Abidjan in Africa rather than safely disposed of in the Netherlands.[27] According to the government of Ivory Coast 16 people died and thousands were poisoned by the waste. The films were made in the face of pressure from Trafigura's lawyers Carter-Ruck who were attempting to close down press coverage of Trafigura's role in the scandal. Ultimately Carter-Ruck even attempted to use a super-injunction to stop The Guardian reporting mentions of Trafigura in Parliament. In response to the pressure Jones set up a network of international journalists and investigators to share information on the dumping, informally known as "Team Trafigura". As David Leigh of The Guardian wrote "This time, the reporters were determined not to be picked off one by one. They included journalists from Norway, the Netherlands and Estonia, and Meirion Jones from BBC Two's Newsnight, which has led the way in doggedly analysing Trafigura's activities."[28] In April 2010 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists gave the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting to the members of that team for exposing "how a powerful offshore oil trader tried to cover up the poisoning of 30,000 West Africans".[2] The six named on the award were Meirion Jones and reporter Liz Mackean from Newsnight, David Leigh from The Guardian, Kjersti Knudsson and Synnove Bakke from NRK in Norway and Jeroen Trommelen from De Volksrant in the Netherlands. In July 2010, Jones and Mackean reported on the final conviction of Trafigura in the Dutch courts for illegally exporting toxic waste to Africa.[29] The Trafigura row along with the Simon Singh case and others has helped motivate the Libel Reform Campaign which has persuaded the British government to begin reform of the libel laws in 2011.

Vulture funds[edit]

Since 2007 Jones and Greg Palast have been investigating Vulture fund operations, which attempt to divert into their own pockets, the money given by Western governments to pay off the debts of poor countries. The Vultures buy up the debt cheaply, and then when it is about to be written off, sue for the full value plus interest often in the British courts. These films formed the centrepiece of a campaign backed by Oxfam and the Jubilee Debt Campaign to outlaw this practice through a Debt Relief Bill. The first film in 2007 exposed an American vulture who liked to call himself 'Goldfinger' who was suing Zambia.[30] It was rebroadcast in the USA and seen by two Congressmen who immediately went to the White House and asked President Bush face-to-face to curb the vulture funds.[31] The last film which focused on vultures suing Liberia was broadcast in February 2010 on the eve of the Second Reading of the UK Debt Relief Bill.[32] The bill became law.[33] In November 2010 the funds who had been suing Liberia had to agree to accept around $1 million which they were entitled to under the new act rather than the $43 million which had been awarded by the British courts.[34]

Market rigging[edit]

On 15 October 2010 the multi-national Reckitt Benckiser was fined £10 million for rigging the market for Gaviscon following an investigation by Jones and Martin Shankleman.[35] Ann Pope, senior director at the OFT said "This important case was brought to our attention by BBC Newsnight, after a whistleblower took his story to the programme. The fine announced today sends a clear signal to businesses in a dominant position that we will take strong action against this sort of anti-competitive behaviour."[36][37]

Nuclear weapons and Israel[edit]

In 2005-6 Meirion Jones made three films with Michael Crick on nuclear weapons and Israel which revealed for the first time how Britain had helped Israel's nuclear weapons programme. Papers obtained through Freedom of Information showed how the UK had secretly exported the heavy water to Israel to start up the Dimona nuclear reactor and had supplied Israel with samples of uranium 235, plutonium and lithium 6.[38] Jones wrote a print version of the revelations which New Statesman ran as their cover story.[39] In September 2016, Jones and Israeli nuclear historian Avner Cohen wrote a piece for Haaretz revealing that there had been an investigation into 1960s British nuclear weapons chief Nyman Levin.[40]

Bogus bomb detectors[edit]

Jones lecturing about the fake bomb detector ADE 651 that he helped expose.

On 22 January 2010 the British government announced that it would ban the export of "magic wand" type bomb detectors to Iraq and Afghanistan because of the danger to British and allied troops.[41] The ban on the ADE651, GT200, Alpha 6 and similar products was the result of an investigation by Jones and the BBC's former Baghdad correspondent Caroline Hawley broadcast that day which showed that the detectors did not and could not work.[42][43] British businessman Jim McCormick sold $85 million of the bogus detectors to Iraq before the ban. The Inspector General of the Iraqi Interior Ministry told the BBC that hundreds of civilians in Baghdad had died as a result of because suicide bombers were able to smuggle explosives past checkpoints equipped with the bogus devices.[44] On 23 April 2013, McCormick, was convicted of three counts of fraud involving the ADE651 at the Old Bailey in London,and was subsequently sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. .[45] The owner of the company which made the GT200, Gary Bolton, who sold thousands of the devices in Mexico Thailand and other countries was also convicted on 26 July 2013 on two charges of fraud and subsequently jailed for seven years.[46][47]

Olympics cash for gold medals scandal[edit]

Jones and Anna Adams uncovered evidence of secret payments of nine million dollars from Azerbaijan to a competition called World Series Boxing run by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) which organises boxing at the Olympics. Whistleblowers from inside AIBA/WSB claimed that WSB's chief said the money was in return for a guarantee that Azerbaijani fighters would win two boxing gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. AIBA and WSB admit they received the money but deny there was any deal to guarantee Azerbaijan gold medals at London. The Ethics Committee of the International Olympic Committee has now asked the BBC for their evidence so they can investigate.[48] Days later the Daily Mail revealed that the rules at the World Boxing Championships, which AIBA had already controversially moved to Baku, had been switched "to favour Azerbaijan" and give them a better chance of qualifying boxers for the Olympics.[49]

United States Presidential election 2000[edit]

Jones and Greg Palast revealed how many black voters in Florida had been barred from voting in the 2000 election[50] by a purge of the Florida Central Voter File. Jones and Palast have been working together since 1998 and have made more than a dozen investigative films on subjects such as oil and the war in Iraq, the Bin Laden family, the Bush family, the coup against Chavez, and vulture funds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bureau appoints Meirion Jones as Investigations Editor". 8 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "entry – news and investigations | The Center for Public Integrity". Publicintegrity.org. 13 February 2013. Archived from the original on 7 September 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Paxman, Jeremy (26 September 2016). "'The rumours about Savile had been around for years'". The Times. 
  4. ^ Jones, Meirion (19 December 2006). "Programmes | Newsnight Home | Tsunami funds languish in banks". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Hope, Christopher; Millward, David (8 May 2008). "Foreign criminals work at airports unchecked". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  6. ^ George Jones 27 October 2005 (27 October 2005). "Blunkett in new row over sons' shares in DNA testing firm". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "Login". 
  8. ^ Jones, Meirion (1 December 2006). "Undercover actor exposes 'Aids cure'". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "Magazines from the Past: Your Computer Issue 16 (Nov 1982)". Reviewsfromthepast.blogspot.com. 13 July 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  11. ^ [2] Hospital caterers 'could cause listeriosis epidemic' New Scientist 21 July 1988
  12. ^ [3] In search of the safe CFCs New Scientist 26 May 1988
  13. ^ Jane Martinson (13 November 2014). "BBC hopes 'textbook' investigation into 'fake sheikh' heralds fresh start". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  14. ^ Amanda Williams (4 December 2014). "CPS to probe 25 criminal convictions involving evidence from 'Fake Sheikh' reporter Mazher Mahmood after judge accused him of lying in Tulisa drugs trial". Daily Mail. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Roy Greenslade (4 December 2014). "Why I applaud the CPS inquiry into Mazher Mahmood's stories". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Caroline Davies (21 October 2016). "Mazher Mahmood: 'Fake Sheikh' jailed for 15 months". The Guardian. 
  17. ^ Plunkett, John (19 December 2012). "Newsnight's Jimmy Savile story: key points from the Pollard report" – via The Guardian. 
  18. ^ Singh, Anita (10 February 2012). "BBC 'buried Savile sex abuse claims to save its reputation'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  19. ^ Quinn, Ben (28 September 2012). "Jimmy Savile alleged to have abused girls as young as 13". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 October 2012. Documentary to air claims by several women that TV presenter assaulted them when they were children ... Up to 10 women are said to have come forward to claim that they were sexually assaulted by Savile during the 1970s 
  20. ^ Adams, Stephen (30 September 2012). "'Sir Jimmy Savile abused us at the BBC', claim women". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Mason, Rowena (16 October 2012). "BBC's Jimmy Savile probe to be led by Harold Shipman inquiry judge". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  22. ^ Hope, Christopher; Rayner, Gordon (21 October 2012). "Jimmy Savile: BBC scrapped investigation after Newsnight came 'under pressure' from senior managers". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  23. ^ "Newsnight journalist warned of BBC Savile scandal". BBC News. 22 October 2012. 
  24. ^ Williams, Rob (22 October 2012). "Newsnight editor Peter Rippon 'steps aside' over Jimmy Savile claims". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  25. ^ "BBC Newsnight editor steps aside over Jimmy Savile claims". BBC News. 22 October 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  26. ^ http://www.hmic.gov.uk/media/review-into-allegations-and-intelligence-material-concerning-jimmy-savile.pdf
  27. ^ "Newsnight – Trafigura knew of waste dangers". BBC News. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  28. ^ David Leigh (21 September 2009). "Investigative teamwork pays off over Trafigura scoop | Media". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  29. ^ "BBC News – Trafigura found guilty of exporting toxic waste". Bbc.co.uk. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  30. ^ Meirion Jones (14 February 2007). "Programmes | Newsnight | 'Vulture funds' threat to developing world". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  31. ^ "Citing Democracy Now!/BBC Broadcast, Rep. John Conyers Confronts Bush and Demands Investigation of Vulture Funds". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  32. ^ Heather Stewart (25 November 2009). "Vulture funds sue Liberia for £12m in high court | Business | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  33. ^ Jones, Meirion (8 April 2010). "Newsnight – UK stops 'vulture funds' picking on poor". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  34. ^ "BBC News – Liberia agrees deal with 'vulture funds'". Bbc.co.uk. 23 November 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  35. ^ Jones, Meirion (7 March 2008). "Programmes | Newsnight | Gaviscon maker 'cheated the NHS'". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  36. ^ "Gaviscon firm Reckitt Benckiser agrees £10.2m fine". 15 October 2010 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  37. ^ Wilson, Amy (16 October 2010). "Reckitt Benckiser fined £10.2m for Gaviscon market abuse". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  38. ^ Jones, Meirion (10 March 2006). "Programmes | Newsnight | Secret sale of UK plutonium to Israel". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  39. ^ Jones, Meirion (13 March 2006). "Britain's dirty secret". New Statesman. 
  40. ^ Cohen, Avner (24 September 2016). "The sudden death of U.K.'s nuke chief, suspected of spying for Israel's A-bomb program" – via Haaretz. 
  41. ^ "Newsnight – Government statement on 'bomb detectors' export ban". BBC News. 22 January 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  42. ^ Hawley, Caroline (22 January 2010). "Newsnight – Export ban for useless 'bomb detector'". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  43. ^ Blake, Heidi (23 January 2010). "British firms banned from exporting faulty bomb detectors to Iraq and Afghanistan". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  44. ^ http://www.ny.com/2009/11/04/world/middleeast/04sensors.html
  45. ^ Booth, Robert (2 May 2013). "Fake bomb detector conman jailed for 10 years". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  46. ^ "Gary Bolton guilty of selling fake bomb detectors". BBC News. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  47. ^ McDermott, Kerry (20 August 2013). "Businessman who sold 'useless' £5 fake bomb detectors for £10,000 has been jailed for seven years for fraud". Daily Mail. London. 
  48. ^ "BBC News – Allegations of deal to fix 2012 Olympic boxing medals". Bbc.co.uk. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  49. ^ "London 2012 Olympics: MP calls for IOC to probe boxing seedings | Mail Online". Dailymail.co.uk. 28 September 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  50. ^ "NEWSNIGHT | Greg Palast on the Florida Elections – 16/2/01". BBC News. 16 February 2001. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 

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