By James Kinchin-White & Ed Moloney
He was controversial in life, and even more so in death. When veteran Troubles and Middle East correspondent Bob Fisk died, it took only days for other journalists to make public what many in the profession knew for years or had been told about him, which was that he sometimes made it up.
The extracts below from files unearthed at the Kew archive in England demonstrate that it was not only his colleagues in the print media who harbored doubts about him but also the British Army, an irony since controversial British Army press officer Colin Wallace was, by some accounts, one of his favoured contacts.
The story at the centre of this row between the military and Fisk has to do with an alleged newly introduced procedure by which suspects arrested by troops in Northern Ireland would first be handed over to the Royal Military Police for processing before being delivered to the RUC, an arrangement that could open the way for evidence tampering.
The British Army’s anger at Fisk’s coverage of the story (see documents below) derives from his failure to include their input which was that this was an old story about a procedure that had actually been introduced about a year beforehand, i.e. in mid-1972 and not August 1973 as alleged by Fisk.
Fisk’s copy as published makes no mention of the Army’s version of what happened or his conversation about the story with two senior officers in the military press unit.
(Ed Moloney adds: ‘I had no personal experience of Bob Fisk and had met him only once when he agreed to be interviewed for our RTE documentary ‘Voices From The Grave’, although his insistence that we fly him First Class from Beirut to Dublin and back (his fans apparently would otherwise pester him) did not exactly endear him to me. When I queried the cost of all that I was told that this was one way we could win RTE over to a film about which they were already terrified, and so I relented. RTE doted over him, it seems.
‘I hadn’t heard the other side of the Bob Fisk story until after our interview when I was told in detail a another disturbing, not to say alarming tale of journalistic deceit that was told to me by a colleague of Fisk’s who had worked alongside him in the Middle East. That source I absolutely trusted and believed‘)