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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
World press mulls Kelly death

The suicide of Dr David Kelly and the BBC's admission that he was their main source of reports on the government's handling of intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) continues to feature prominently in editorial columns worldwide.

There is much criticism of the BBC's conduct, and the UK Government is also under fire, with several papers arguing that Prime Minister Tony Blair's political future is on the line.

In France, Le Figaro's front-page headline sees "the BBC at the heart of the Kelly scandal."

Denmark's Berlingske Tidende argues that by revealing its source, the BBC has highlighted the question of who will dare to provide information the next time a controversial issue comes to a head.

"The use of anonymous sources is a completely necessary practice if the press is to perform its function," the paper says.

"But everything depends on how an individual news organisation deals with anonymous sources, and this is where the BBC may have a serious problem."

Either Blair... or the reputation of the BBC... will fall
Sme - Slovakia

Also in Denmark, Information argues that the decision by senior BBC managers to reveal the source "completely justifies" the Corporation being subjected to "the same kind of critical analysis" which "it has become famous for in its news and current-affairs programmes".

Norway's Aftenposten agrees that the BBC is now on the defensive "because of the way it proceeded".

And according to Romania's Adevarul, a "question mark" now hangs over the BBC's credibility in - the paper alleges - "misrepresenting Kelly's position as a member of the intelligence establishment".

More 'casualties'

"How could the most respected radio and television corporation in the world disclose Dr Kelly as the source of its information," Adevarul asks, "when there is a cast-iron rule that this should not happen even in cases of death?"

Slovakia's Sme is bothered by "the way in which the super-strong BBC is waging a war against Blair".

"It is not traditional - to say the least - for a respected media institution to base its months-long campaign against the government on a single source, kept secret until his death," the paper charges, predicting that the Kelly episode "can only result in more 'casualties'."

"Either Blair and his politically successful Labourites of the 'third way' or the reputation of the BBC - which used to be presented as synonymous with journalistic quality - will fall," it warns.

Many commentators, however, see the Kelly tragedy as tangential to the main issue, with France's Le Monde arguing that attacks on BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan miss the point.

If exaggeration - or 'sexing up' - is the worst that Messrs Howard, Blair and Bush are eventually branded with over Iraq and WMD, they will survive the current controversy
The Australian
"However much Blair's friends may cast aspersions on the work of Andrew Gilligan and accuse the BBC of conducting a 'campaign' against the war in Iraq from the start," the paper comments, "the fact remains that Blair's team does seem to have distorted an official report."

Norway's Aftenposten believes that David Kelly has paid the price for what it calls the British prime minister's "media management methods".

Blair, the paper says, "more than any other British head of government, has used the methods of the advertising industry and PR gurus to market his policies."

"Packaging and presentation have become more important than content," Aftenposten says.

"There is a price to be paid for that kind of thing, and there is no justice in a person like David Kelly having to pay it."

Slovakia's Pravda says that "while time may tell if it was just to attack (or liberate) Iraq, in a democratic country, the lie must not be tolerated as fact, much less as the political standard."

Hungary's Nepszabadsag says "only the impending independent inquiry will be able to acquit Blair of the unspoken accusation that, in retaliation for the BBC interviews - instead of protecting him, as confidential experts deserve - he [Blair] turned the honourable Dr Kelly over to tough questioning by a parliamentary committee and, in doing so, indirectly caused his death."

Statesman

The Australian is more sanguine: "If exaggeration - or 'sexing up', to use the contemporary parlance - is the worst that Messrs Howard, Blair and Bush are eventually branded with over Iraq and WMD, they will survive the current controversy," it believes.

The death of Dr Kelly, the paper says, "does not change... the underlying merit of the case for removing Saddam Hussein".
Blair has made a name for himself as a committed, innovative and credible leader
Sydsvenska Dagbladet - Sweden

According to Egypt's AL-Akhbar, the "tormenting questions" that face Mr Blair's government following Kelly's death could "destroy his political future".

An editorial in the Saudi AL-Watan believes that the BBC's announcement that Dr Kelly was the source of its report has "intensified Blair's crisis, placing his credibility in an unenviable position".

But Sweden's Sydsvenska Dagbladet defends Mr Blair. The paper says it would be "unfortunate" if he were forced to resign.

Blair "has made a name for himself as a committed, innovative and credible leader, both at home and in the international arena," the Swedish paper says. "His qualities as a statesman have shown themselves not least in difficult political situations."

One Iranian paper goes out on a limb. Dr Kelly's death should be investigated "until the criminal Tony Blair has been executed and global imperialism, with its world-devouring leader, America, has been disgraced", the reformist daily Aftab-E Yazd says.

Conspiracy

Egypt's AL-Ahram says Dr Kelly's "mysterious death" has "raised doubts that he may have been killed as punishment for leaking information to the BBC and exposing the British government's deliberate dissemination of false allegations about Iraq's possession of WMD and ability to launch them within 45 minutes of receiving the order".
The Iraq crisis - part two - is well under way
Moskovskiy Komsomolets - Russia

Other papers make similar accusations: "Blair has the lifeless body of Kelly on his hands," the Persian-language Iran charges, claiming that the British government "insists" upon describing the death of "the informant of secrets" as suicide.

"British society is in shock," is the diagnosis in Russia's leading daily Izvestiya.

"This is not even a scandal," it comments, "it is a total disaster for the Labour government."

Russia's Moskovskiy Komsomolets tries to inject a streak of macabre humour:

"Never before has Tony Blair come so close to political collapse," it says. "The virus of a non-existent Iraqi bacteriological weapon has attacked Tony Blair.

"Bush has been irradiated by the non-existent Iraqi nuclear weapon originating in Niger."

"The Iraq crisis - part two - is well under way," it concludes.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.


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