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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 12:28 GMT
BBC caught out in Bhopal hoax
By Matt Holder
BBC NewsWatch

Site of Union Carbide plant at Bhopal
The chemical disaster at the Union Carbide plant killed thousands

The BBC has fallen victim to an elaborate hoax timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of India's Bhopal chemical disaster.

BBC World and BBC News 24 ran an interview with a bogus Dow Chemical official who claimed the company admitted responsibility for the Bhopal disaster in 1984.

He also claimed the company had established a $12 billion fund to compensate victims' families and survivors of the disaster.

Excerpts from the interview were also carried on news bulletins on Radio 2, Radio 4 and Radio Five Live.

The BBC has apologised to Dow and to viewers who may have been misled.

Elaborate deception

However, the BBC later admitted that the interview with bogus Dow spokesman Jude Finisterra was part of "an elaborate deception" and everything he said was false.

A statement read out on BBC World said: "This morning at 9am and 10am (GMT) BBC World ran an interview with someone purporting to be from the Dow chemical company about Bhopal.

"This interview was inaccurate, part of an elaborate deception.

"The person did not represent the company and we want to make it clear that the information he gave was entirely inaccurate."

A correction was also read out on BBC Radio news bulletins.

It is a cruel, cruel hoax to play on the people of Bhopal on the 20th anniversary of this tragedy
Rachna Dhingra of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

It said: "Earlier this morning, our news bulletin here (on Radio 2/4/5 Live) carried an extract from an interview with someone purporting to be from the Dow chemical company about the disaster twenty years ago at Bhopal in India.

"It is now clear that the person did not, in fact, represent the Dow company and we want to make clear that the information he gave was entirely inaccurate."

'No basis whatsoever'

Dow Chemical spokeswoman Marina Ashanin told BBC World from Switzerland: "Dow confirms there was no basis whatsoever for this report.

"We also confirm Jude Finisterra is neither an employee nor a spokesperson for Dow."

The BBC is looking into the incident to establish the background and how the interview got to air.

A report will be made to the BBC's Deputy Director-General, Mark Byford.

Thousands were killed instantly on December 3, 1984 when the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal released 40 tonnes of lethal methyl isocyanate gas into the air, in one of the world's worst environmental disasters.

Rachna Dhingra, a spokesperson for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, said: "It is a cruel, cruel hoax to play on the people of Bhopal on the 20th anniversary of this tragedy."



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