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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Iraq Body Count - John Pilger responds
Iraq Body Count website
The website Iraq Body Count is involved in a war of words with 'media-watchdog' Media Lens. Iraq Body Count, Media Lens says, vastly underestimates the number of deaths in Iraq thereby aiding - unwittingly or otherwise - those who defended the war.

On April 10, Media Lens latest 'media alert' about IBC carried quotes from Media Lens supporter, campaigning journalist John Pilger.

Since the story was published, John Pilger has replied to Newsnight's request for a response. The correspondence between John Pilger and the story's author, the BBC's David Fuller, appears below.

Before the story was published, David Fuller wrote to John Pilger (Thursday morning).

Hi John,

I'm producing a story for the BBC Newsnight website about the Iraqi Casualties and the recent campaign by Media Lens about Iraq Body Count, which you recently joined ('Shame becoming shameful').

I would particularly like to get your response to claims by IBC that you failed to do your research properly into the background of the debate before joining it. The implied allegation is that you abused your position of authority in the anti-war movement by not doing so.

A subsequent questions is why you favour the Lancet report above other studies, including, for example, the UNDP study completed three months earlier which came up with a much lower total for Iraqi dead and had a much smaller confidence interval.

I expect publication of the story and interview this evening - I can get your response via email or conduct a telephone interview if you would prefer.

many thanks,

David Fuller

Dear David,

I have only just seen your initial email (I'm overseas). Your pompous premise is ridiculous and not unexpected from the BBC, which has consistently and -- to use your word -- shamefully neglected and unplayed the issue of civilian deaths in Iraq, all under the false flag of "fairness and balance".

Your pompous premise is ridiculous and not unexpected from the BBC
John Pilger
There is no "campaign" against IBC or John Sloboda. Media Lens asked him to respond to questions and he refused. So it is he who has refused to join the "debate". When I wrote to Sloboda, I congratulated his initiative in attempting to record civilian deaths; I asked him merely why he refused to answer Media Lens's reasonable questions. That's all. No accusations. Merely a request.

You mention the UNDP estimate. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of studies place civilian deaths far higher than IBC and the equally limited UNDP report. IBC has admitted its own serious limitations -- that is, it is merely a reflection of the press reporting.

And if the press reporting is in any way a reflection of -- and I repeat your word -- the utterly shameful, thoroughly embedded BBC reporting of Iraq, the conclusion is clear.

Please publish any of this.

John Pilger

The IBC-Media Lens debate continues on the Media Lens website forum:

Virtual war follows Iraq conflict
27 Apr 06 |  Newsnight Home

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