International lawyer gets libel apology from BBC

A top international lawyer has received a public apology at London's High Court and accepted “suitable” but undisclosed damages in settlement of a libel action brought against the BBC.

Dr Abass Bundu, former assistant director of the international affairs division of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and later an MP in his native Sierra Leone, sued the BBC after he was branded a “terrorist” by a listener in BBC Focus on Africa in February.

His lawyer, Nick Braithwaite of Bindman & Partners, told Mr Justice Eady that Dr Bundu had served as Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources and as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for the Sierra Leone government.

“He has constantly sought peace through negotiations during the political conflicts which have taken place in recent years in Sierra Leone. He was instrumental in securing the agreement of Cote d'Ivoire which mediated the Abidjan Peace Accord,” said Braithwaite.

Dr Bundu was forced to leave Sierra Leone, but continued to work in exile in the interest of peace.

Braithwaite said a listener sent an email to the radio programme which was broadcast, accusing Dr Bundu of being a terrorist who, with others, was responsible for destabilising his country.

“These allegations were entirely false,” said Mr Braithwaite. He said the BBC accepted it was an unsuspecting accomplice in a campaign to damage his reputation.

BBC lawyer Jonathan McCoy said the corporation accepted the allegations were false and had acted as quickly as possible to mitigate the damage caused to Dr Bundu by the broadcast. It issued an apology and an interview on the radio and the internet.