Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Al-Jazeera Memo

The issue of FOI and the Al-Jazeera memo seems to have finally come out in the open. Other than the blogging community my request made in November had picked up little interest. It seems as though Al-Jazeera have made a request (perhaps phrased differently), following on from the one that I made late last year. They qoute my request on their "Don't Bomb" blog.

I received a response just before Xmas (right on the 20 deadline), the Cabinet Office confirmed that they held information that was relevant to my request but witheld under exemption 27(1)(a). I am currently formulating a detailed response for internal review.

The text below is taken from the Downing Street website:

Asked how Downing Street intended to respond to a request from legal representatives for the Al-Jazeera news network for transcripts or notes of a conversation between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we would reply properly to any request made to us, however it was not the practice, and nor would it become the practice for Downing Street to release conversations between the Prime Minister and other world leaders, be they President Bush or anyone else.

We could however confirm, as we said yesterday, that the memo did not refer to bombing the Al-Jazeera television station in Qatar, despite various allegations to the contrary. Asked if it referred to bombing Al-Jaezeera stations elsewhere, the PMOS said that he was not aware of any suggestion of bombing any Al-Jazeera building. Asked if the memo referred to Fallujah, the PMOS said that whilst there was a specific issue with regards to Al-Jazeera, he would not get into speculation about the detail of the memo. Asked if, given that he had given some information about the memo, he was now obliged to divulge the entire memo under the Freedom of Information Act, the PMOS said no.

We were commenting on a specific allegation which had been made repeatedly, despite firm denials from the Government, and it was right to clarify that. However it would be wholly wrong to release details of private conversations between the Prime Minister and other world leaders. Asked when we would reply, the PMOS said that we replied to FOI requests within 20 working days.

Also see the BBC news report

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