§ 7.35 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will establish an inquiry into the circumstances which led the Daily Express to publish a photograph of alleged political prisoners in chains in Ghana in March, 1965, which was in fact a photograph of prisoners in Togoland in January, 1963. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to put the Question in my name on the Order Paper. I regret that I am again initiating a debate at what is a comparatively late hour for this House. That does not mean for a moment that I regret the length of the previous debate. If I should be in order in so doing, I would express appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, for having initiated that debate, and also my appreciation to those who took part in discussing a subject which is of such overall human importance.1411
§ I particularly regret that the Minister who had the duty of replying to that debate also has the duty of listening to this debate and of replying to it at the end. I am anticipating that more Members of this House than those who have placed their names on the list of speakers will be taking part. I want just to say that I have had a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Luke, who sits on the opposite Benches regretting that he is unable to stay, but saying that I can quote him as supporting me in my remarks—an expression of confidence before having heard the remarks I am going to make!
§ I should like to begin by saying that I am not raising this matter from political antipathy to the Daily Express. I am, of course, opposed to the general policy of that paper, although I should like to express appreciation of its contribution to good inter-racial relations in this country. The Editor who resigned yesterday is an old friend of mine; he was at one time Editor of Tribune; and although the Daily Express has said rude things about me during the last week, I have no grudge against it. That is not the motive of my raising the matter this evening.
§ I have tabled this Question for three reasons. First, I am by profession a journalist and am jealous of the honour and integrity of my own profession. Second, I think there is evidence that the responsibility for the circumstances which led to the publication of this forged photograph was part of the machinations of a wider circle, which used the Daily Express as an instrument for its purposes. Third, I am concerned that justice is done to Ghana. Ghana is a member of the Commonwealth and her President at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference gave, and is still giving, signal service to the British Government.
§ I hope that during this debate no one will attempt to excuse the publication of this forgery because of their criticism of Ghana's detention of political offenders. I share that criticism. By public statements, by correspondence and by personal conversations I have made my views known to the President. Indeed, when the Daily Express published this photograph I wrote at once to Dr. Nkrumah expressing my deep revulsion. 1412 If such was the effect on me of this photograph, one may sense what was the effect upon others less sympathetic towards African independence.
Let me relate the facts. On March 17 this year the Daily Express published a photograph across seven columns of a page. I have here a copy of that day's issue of the paper. It is a photograph of a number of prisoners shackled together in chains. The caption beneath the photograph reads:
Shackled together like slaves of a bygone era—Ghana politicians and Opposition Party officials in a Ghanaian prison.
This spectacular photograph was accompanied by a dispatch from the Daily Express correspondent at Lomé in Togo. I quote the opening two paragraphs:
These men shackled together in a Ghana prison camp are members of Ghana's loyal Opposition. Among them are politicians and officials of the Opposition United Party and leading citizens who have been critical of the regime of Kwame N'krumah of Ghana. This picture, given to me by Mr. Idana Asigri, a Ghanaian Member of Parliament who spent two years in a Government prison camp before he escaped, is proof of the incredible political situation in Ghana.
The dispatch ends with these words:
Those that resisted the Government including Members of Parliament were sent to political prison where they have languished in chains for six years.
The Daily Express accompanied the photograph and that message from Togo-land by an editorial article in which it used these words:
The other African members of the Commonwealth should rise in anger against N'krumah. They can count on the support of all in this country who believe in justice and decency.
That, I suggest, was a very serious incitement to the other African Governments who are members of the Commonwealth.
§ The authenticity of this photograph was generally believed by the political commentators in our Press. Even so fair and objective a writer as my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams, who will be taking part in this debate, accepted that authenticity when writing for the New Statesman, though, with characteristic honesty, in the journal Punch, for which he is now writing, he indicated that that view was then mistaken. This picture and the report of the Daily Express must have made an impression of revulsion not only 1413 on the public in this country but on persons of influence, and indeed on the Governments of the world, through their Embassies in London.
§ This was not all that the Daily Express did. It syndicated this photograph and its report throughout the world. I have here copies of photographs of some of these reproductions which show that in other countries this photograph, which was later to prove to be forged, was published widely everywhere. For example, Paris Match, which has one of the largest circulations in France, published the photograph on an even larger scale than the Daily Express had done in this country. The widely circulated paper in Germany, Stern, similarly reproduced the photograph and published the reports as given in the Daily Express. Perhaps what is more serious is that it was published in other African countries, and in African countries in the Commonwealth the effect could only have been to cause serious doubts and divisions. I have in my hand a copy of the picture as it was published in the Nigerian Daily Express, again with a report attacking the Ghanaian Government in the belief that this photograph was accurate. My Lords, people throughout the world must have seen this photograph giving a distressing image of Ghana in every continent, an image of a cruel and barbarous Government which, by its behaviour, had placed itself outside the pale of civilisation.
§ I wish to say in fairness to the Daily Express that when, at last, it was convinced that this photograph was a forgery, the Editor communicated with the papers to whom the photograph had been sent and withdrew any claim for payment for the provision of this forged photograph. I do not know how fully or adequately the papers concerned corrected the mistake, but the damage had been done. One can never catch up with a spectacular lie which circulates the world.
§ What followed? On March 26, Dr. Nkrumah, the President of Ghana, denied in the Ghanaian Parliament that the photograph was of any political prisoners in Ghana. The next day the Daily Express recorded his repudiation, but republished the photograph and again asserted that it was genuine. On April 13 the Ghanaian Minister of Information 1414 held a Press conference in Accra at which the former Director of Togolese Information Services gave the facts regarding the photograph. It had been taken not in a Ghanaian prison at all, but in Togoland, to illustrate how prisoners had been treated there. After President Olimpio had been overthrown, the new régime collected former prisoners together and posed them in this and in other photographs to demonstrate how prisoners had been shackled under the previous dictatorship. One of the prisoners shown in the photograph, a Lomé taxi driver (Lomé is the capital of Togo) appeared at the Press conference and corroborated the Director's account. He was clearly recognisable as being in the photograph, and he gave the names of nine other prisoners in the picture. The next day the Daily Express gave a brief report of the Press conference in two paragraphs, but again asserted that the photograph was genuine.
§ On April 15 the Agence France Press published a statement quoting official Togolese sources to the effect that the Government of Togo deeply regretted that a photograph taken to expose oppression in Togo under the regime of President Olimpio should have been used to mount an entirely unfounded attack on the Government of Ghana. The Daily Express does not subscribe to this agency, and unfortunately it did not appear to note the reproduction of the message of the agency which appeared in the official bulletin published by the Ghanaian High Commissioner. This was the situation when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers met. The Daily Express, despite all the evidence, was still maintaining that this photograph was authentic.
To the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference came a group of Ghanaian editors, one of whom was chairman of their association and of the Ghana Radio and Television Corporation, and three of whom were Members of Parliament. They raised this matter with the Editor of the Daily Express. As a result of their doing so apparently, in June the Daily Express sent a "senior executive" to Africa to investigate. His report was received on June 23. I quote:
It confirmed that the picture was not taken in Ghana but Togo when some prisoners who had been released on the fall of the Olimpio Government posed for a photograph to show the conditions under which they suffered.
On June 24, more than three months after the first publication of the photograph, and after the Daily Express had repeatedly declared that it was genuine, it acknowledged that the photograph was a forgery. It wrote:
We regret this error and express our apologies".
I think that most people would regard the apology as inadequate. In a statement of 500 words, there was only one sentence of eight words of regret and apology. Indeed, a large part of the statement was devoted to a repetition of the charges against the Ghanaian Government's treatment of political prisoners and their statement of regret and apology ended with these words:
that the Daily Express has made in this matter is, we venture to think, relatively unimportant—
compared to the unrequited wrongs of these wretched people.
The Daily Express statement repeated that the photo came through an ex-Ghanaian M.P. then in Togoland. As I have already indicated in my reading of the original report he was Mr. Idana Asigri, one of the Opposition, in exile. It is difficult to believe that Mr. Asigri did not know the truth about the photograph. It was extensively used by the Togo Government as propaganda against the preceding Olimpio régime which it had overthrown. It was widely distributed in Lomé. It seems impossible that anyone in political life in Lomé would have been unaware of the true origin of this photograph.
§ This leads me to my second reason for raising this subject to-night. I think it is clear that the "planting" of this photograph was part of a comprehensive plan to defame the Ghanaian Government. One cannot refrain from saying that the rÔle played by those who participated in this forgery inevitably causes one to doubt the wider allegations which they made. Let us look at the sequence of events. On March 16, the British Press, including the Daily Express, published an account of a letter submitted to Mr. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, by Dr. Busia, Leader of the Opposition, the United Party in 1416 Exile, asking for the intervention of the Commonwealth countries, following the death of Dr. Danquah, into the ill-treatment of 600 political prisoners. I should say at once that I had been deeply concerned by the detention of Dr. Danquah. I have little doubt that some leaders of the Opposition had been guilty of a conspiracy to assassinate the President, but I knew Dr. Danquah and I do not believe it of him. I expressed my disquiet to Dr. Nkrumah at the time. I was distressed to hear of Dr. Danquah's death, but I know of no evidence of his ill-treatment in prison.
§ In view of the identification of the Opposition with this forgery, one cannot accept the statement of the United Party's Secretary at Lagos that Dr. Danquah's death was due to police tortue. That statement began the campaign which had its climax in this forgery. It was followed by Dr. Busia's letter to the Prime Minister, which alleged that Dr. Danquah had been tortured and kept in chains for thirteen months. This was followed by the publication of the forged picture in the Daily Express. I ask: can it be a coincidence that the photograph was published on the day following Dr. Busia's letter to the Prime Minister?
The serious fact is that it was on the repeated evidence of Opposition leaders that the Daily Express for three months justified its publication of the photograph. I have in my hand a copy of the letter the Editor of the Daily Express sent to the Ghanaian editors when they approached him. It is quite clear from this letter that it was on statements of the Opposition leaders, who had made these charges of torture and of prisoners being in chains, that the Daily Express rested its case.
On March 17,
says the Editor,
the Daily Express published the photograph of chained political prisoners supplied to our correspondent in Togo through the agency of officials of the United Party.
I quote from the Editor's letter again:
On March 26 the Daily Express quoted the Press officer of the United Party of Ghana, who named two members of the detainees in the picture and identified them as members of his party known to him and still in a Ghanaian prison. He added that the photograph had been taken within 24 hours of the arrest of the prisoners.
A third quotation:
On April 18 Mr. Ekow Richardson, the General Secretary of the United Party, claimed that the picture published in the Daily Express was genuine.
A fourth quotation:
On May 29 a detailed letter from the Secretary of the U.K. Branch of the United Party to the Chairman of the I.T.A., a copy of which was sent to the Daily Express, again confirmed that the picture published in the Daily Express was authentic.
Finally, the Editor stated that
Dr. K. Busia, the leader of the United Party in Britain has today "—
that was June 17
made the following statement: ' I have no doubt that the picture published in the Daily Express was taken in Ghana. Its authenticity has been thoroughly checked '.
§ I give those quotations because they indicate that the Daily Express repeated its charge that this photograph was genuine on the statements of the Leaders of the Opposition in Ghana. All these statements have now been proved wrong. After the falsehoods of which the leaders of the Opposition have been guilty, one cannot accept the long series of grave charges they have made about prison conditions; and it will not be possible to believe them in the future. I think it is clear that the forged picture was a deliberate part of a conspiracy to denigrate the Ghanaian Government by allegations which in tested cases have now proved not to be true. Incalculable harm has been done.
§ My Lords, I want to conclude by asking what can now be done to right this wrong. The Government may say that they have no responsibility in this matter. But this is a case where a British newspaper, of mammoth circulation, has given publicity to a forgery which makes an atrocious charge against a Government of the Commonwealth, and it has distributed that forgery around the world. It is a case where subjects of the United Kingdom and of the Commonwealth—the leaders of the Opposition—have initiated that forgery and identified themselves with it even after it has proved to be untrue. Not since the case of the forged "Parnell letters", published by The Times during the Home Rule conflicts, has a graver political fabrication been committed. The Government can- 1418 not ignore this affront to a member of the Commonwealth.
§ In my Question I ask whether the Government will establish an inquiry. Before the forgery was proved, the Editor of the Daily Express suggested to the Ghanaian editors that the International Commission of Jurists at Geneva should be asked to make an inquiry. In the present circumstances, it would be difficult for any Government to accept the services of that Commission to inquire into the case of an admitted forgery. Moreover, the Commission is not a constitutional tribunal, and could not require evidence to be given; and undoubtedly it would be ignored by some of those whose evidence would be needed.
I put the following alternative suggestions for action by the Government. First, the attention of the Press Council has been drawn to the forgery. In view of the gravity of the case, I think the Press Council would be justified in adopting an exceptional course which is permissible under their constitution. In order that justice shall not only be done but shall appear to be done, and in order that the truth may be made known to the deceived world, why should not an inquiry be held in public at which those who contributed to this fabrication could be asked to give evidence and could be examined? This is possible within the constitution of the Press Council. I refer to subsection (3) of Clause 2, which under the heading "Objects of the Council" reads as follows:
to consider complaints about the conduct of the Press or the conduct of persons and organisations towards the Press; to deal with these complaints in whatever manner might seem practical and appropriate, and record resultant action.
I ask the House to note especially the fact that the terms of reference of the Council include not only the conduct of persons, but of organisations, towards the Press. This would allow an examination into the charge that there was a conspiracy to plant this forgery on the Daily Express by the Opposition Party. Your Lordships will note, also, that the Council is authorised:
to deal with these complaints in whatever manner might seem practical and appropriate".
A public inquiry, therefore, is not excluded. This would surely be an appropriate method to do justice to the Government of Ghana in the eyes of the
world, and to reach the truth of how the forgery came to be perpetrated. I may add that I gave notice to Lord Devlin, the Chairman of the Press Council, that I intended to refer to this tonight.
§ My second suggestion is that the Public Prosecutor should be asked to consider whether this is not a case appropriate for prosecution for criminal libel. One must bear in mind that not only was this appalling forgery printed and distributed throughout the world, but editorially the paper urged African members of the Commonwealth to rise in anger against Nkrumah. There is surely a prima facie case, first, because a forgery has been published, and secondly, because there was incitement of Governments to rise against the President of a fellow-member of the Commonwealth.
§ Thirdly, I would ask the Public Prosecutor to consider whether perjury has been committed. The Daily Express justified its repeated assertion that the photograph pictured Ghanaian political prisoners in chains by reference to statements made by leaders of the Opposition Party. It is difficult to believe that the Editor would have accepted statements in this grave matter, involving the honour of his paper, unless they were sworn statements. Were they? If they were, those making any false statement could be charged with perjury under the Statutory Declarations Act. I ask the Government to consider this, and to make the necessary inquiries.
§ Finally, I ask the Minister to make clear in his reply to this debate the abhorrence which Her Majesty's Government feel at the atrocious wrong which has been done to Ghana and its President. Surely this is due to a member of the Commonwealth. It is due, particularly at this moment, to the President, who, despite doubts by other African Governments, is co-operating courageously with our Government in the greatest of all causes, the cause of peace.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
My Lords, I rise in this matter to support my noble friend, though I shall not seek to cover quite so wide a field as he has done. I wish to apply myself particularly to the position of the Daily Express in this affair, without dissociating myself 1420 in any way from my noble friend Lord Brockway's very serious criticisms (which I support) against those Ghanaian politicians who provided the original information. I was to some extent brought into this matter, and made an inquiry into it, because, as my noble friend has said, I originally accepted the authenticity of the picture, believing that no newspaper, not merely with the reputation, but with the resources at its command of a great organisation of that kind, would publish such a picture without having made absolutely sure that it was true and correct. I accepted its authenticity, and referred to it in a column on Press matters that I was then writing for the New Statesman.
Because of this, when the six Ghanaian editors came over to this country for the Commonwealth Conference they approached me, presented me with evidence which they had accumulated to show that this picture was a forgery, and asked me whether I would take the matter up with the Daily Express. I at once did so. I was at that stage assured by the Daily Express that they were still completely confident of the authenticity of their photograph. They had received it from their correspondent in Togo, a Mr. Ernest Gogry, with whose ability and good faith, apparently, they were satisfied—though I am not quite sure, in view of all the circumstances, why they should have been.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
They assured me that when he received it he had had sworn statements as to its authenticity from Mr. Idana Asigri, the Leader of the Ghanaian Opposition Party, and that this had been supported by other members of the United Party of Ghana, including Dr. K. A. Busha, the leader of the United Party in exile, who is, of course, a lecturer at Oxford—a fact which seemed to give them additional confidence that he must be right. They were able to produce, and to counter every statement made by the Ghanaian Government by, other statements—and, I think I was told, sworn statements—from the other side, stating that the photograph was authentic, claiming to identify people on the photograph as members of the United Party—two of them said to be people who had worked 1421 in its head office, and who had been imprisoned. These declarations continued right up to the end.
Even after the Press conference held by the Information Minister of Ghana, at which he produced evidence said to identify those in the photograph, and to show that they were not Ghanaians at all, Mr. Richardson, the General Secretary of the United Party of Ghana in exile, issued a statement to the Daily Express in which he categorically asserted that the photograph had been procured in Ghana through intelligence sources, of whose reliability he was fully satisfied, and that two men in it had been identified by him as personally known to him as former workers in the United Party Headquarters in Accra.
The question I ask myself, looking at this as I do, from the point of view of a newspaperman, is how far was the Daily Express justified or not justified, in the light of all this, in the first place, in publishing the photograph, and in the second place, in continuing to defend it, in continuing to proclaim its authenticity, despite the accumulated evidence to the contrary. I am bound to say that after discussing this matter fully with the then Editor of the Daily Express, and after looking at various evidence that they produced, I myself am satisfied that the Daily Express was genuinely misled—at least, the Daily Express in London was genuinely misled.
There was a period when I think the Ghanaian authorities felt very strongly—and certainly the six Ghanaian editors who came to me felt very strongly—that this was a deliberate forgery hatched up by the Daily Express itself. I do not, from such inquiries as I have been able to make, and from the evidence that I have seen, believe that to be so. But I consider that the Daily Express showed both bad judgment and amazing incompetence in accepting this picture without the full inquiries which one would have expected. They have stated again and again to me that they had made inquiries before publishing it. Those inquiries, so far as I am able to discover from the evidence I asked them to produce, and which they produced, is consistent with nothing more at any stage than statements from exactly the same group of people over and over again.
1422 I am bound to say that I do not believe that the Daily Express would have published this photograph if it had purported to be a photograph of prisoners in any other country but Ghana, probably, and if it had not come to them immediately following a great many other stories of conditions. I say nothing as to whether or not those stories may be correct. I disagree to some extent with my noble friend Lord Brockway, in that I think it will be a great pity, and perhaps one of the gravest damages that the publication of this forgery will have done, if, because of it, we are all now inclined to close our minds to reports of conditions in Ghana or, for that matter, anywhere else, and to feel: Well, there was the Daily Express forgery—everything else must also be a forgery.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt to say that I agree entirely. I hope that my noble friend knows how I always intervene when there is any suggestion of personal political persecution, and I hope that that will be sufficient assurance.
§ Loan FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
It is indeed, and I gladly say so. It was only that I thought that some of the phrases my noble friend used at the end might have given that impression, and I think it would be very dangerous if they did. I hope that the British Press will always feel that it has a responsibility to disclose facts of tyranny and suppression, wherever it finds them. But it also has the equally essential responsibility of making sure that the evidence upon which such allegations are made has been as thoroughly explored as it possibly can be, and I do not believe that in this case such evidence was explored with anything like the thoroughness that one would expect from a great newspaper, a newspaper in command of immense resources for examining information all over the world.
When one considers what the Daily Express can do when it puts a whole team of reporters to try to discover something which in many cases I, and I think many of your Lordships, might consider was not worth discovering, I cannot believe that had it brought to bear the same resources upon this matter it could not have discovered that this was a forgery. 1423 After all, it was only a matter of four weeks before the Ghana Government was able to produce not merely the full list of the people who actually had been photographed and the details of the circumstances in which they had been photographed but, as my noble friend has said, produced one of the people on the photograph before a Press conference. If they could do that in that length of time, I cannot believe that the Daily Express with all its resources, if it had wanted to, could not have found out the truth about this photograph. I accept entirely its honesty in that it allowed itself to believe that the photograph was true, but I am amazed both at its incompetence and its readiness to allow itself to be deceived and, in turn, to deceive its readers.
My Lords, following my meeting with the six Ghana editors and my discussion with the Editor of the Daily Express, I discussed again with the Ghana editors the Daily Express suggestion that this matter should be put before the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. The Ghanaian editors said, for reasons which I fully appreciate, that they did not think that would be acceptable. I then asked them whether they would be prepared to accept an investigation by the Press Council, which it seemed to me with Lord Devlin, an eminent Judge, at its head was entirely and ideally suited to make an investigation of this kind.
I then spoke to the Editor of the Daily Express and said that I assumed he also would be prepared to put the whole matter before the Press Council, and he, too, agreed. That was before the final disclosure was made. But I was also told by the Editor of the Daily Express that they were still making inquiries, that they had sent an executive out to examine the matter on the spot and that they were waiting for information from him. On June 23 I was rung up by the Editor of the Daily Express who said, "It begins to look as if the evidence is accumulating to show that we were wrong ". I said that if that were so I hoped there would be no question of waiting for a Press Council investigation or anything else but that they would publish their facts fully and completely.
1424 Two days later they did publish them, and I think it is only right to say that they were published with considerable prominence, although I agree with my noble friend that it was with a perhaps rather lame and in some ways excessive attempt to justify. At any rate, there was no attempt still to pretend that the photograph was authentic. At the same time, they immediately circulated all those newspapers which in the ordinary way of their business receive the Express syndicated service, telling them that it had been proved to be a fake.
My Lords, since then two further things have happened. Their correspondent in Togo, from whom they received this picture, has been dismissed. The Editor, who was the Editor throughout all this period, has to-day vacated his position. I do not want to suggest that the only reason for that vacation of his position is this incident—
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
—but I think it may well have been one of the factors leading up to it. Without seeking in any way to defend the Daily Express, since I think its irresponsibility, its incompetence, its failure to investigate as any newspaper should investigate, is indefensible, I am satisfied that the general management of the Daily Express has, perhaps somewhat belatedly—indeed I think very belatedly—accepted responsibility, realised what has happened and is no longer seeking to make any excuses. I believe that in those circumstances the original proposition that this is a matter which could properly be fully investigated by the Press Council should stand. I believe the Press Council has the necessary qualifications to make a full and searching inquiry and that in a matter of this kind it is the best instrument to do so.
If the Government feel that they should intervene in any way, I hope that their intervention will, at any rate for the time being, rest with using all the influence they may command to persuade the Press Council to make that investigation as quickly as possible. When that investigation is completed and more facts are available there may be a case for further consideration, but, speaking in this matter as one who has been a journalist for more 1425 than forty years and who has, despite some of its little ways, a high regard for the British Press as a whole, I feel it is essential that in a matter in which a British newspaper has so deceived not only its own public but a large section of the world public, there should be full investigation by the Press Council, and that the Press Council is the most appropriate body for that task.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I think your Lordships may have been a little bit astonished by the emotional tribute to the total integrity and honesty of the Express newspapers paid by the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, although he did qualify that a little bit towards the end. If it is any consolation to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, what they have said about him during the last twenty years is nothing by comparison to what they have said about me.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
That is all right. I do not dissent, essentially, from anything that the noble Lord has said; although I was a little surprised when he suddenly burst out into the tremendous tribute to this great organisation of total integrity and honesty, because I have never regarded it quite as that.
§ LORD FRANCIS-WILLIAMS
I said I thought it had probably been honest but shockingly incompetent, and if they want to publish that as a tribute they are quite entitled to do so.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
I was delighted to hear the final words "shockingly incompetent", for that at least made the speech a great improvement on what it had otherwise looked like being.
I am going to be very brief. I have never been to Ghana in my life. I have not the pleasure of the acquaintance of 1426 Dr. Nkrumah. I have a feeling that I would not approve of all the methods by which he governs that country at all. But I do think the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has rendered a tremendous service to-day by exposing what is without any question the greatest political forgery since Piggott. There is no doubt about that at all. I think that, in one form or another, either through the Press Council or through this House, or both, we should express our stern dissent from the methods that were used; because it is in fact a forgery, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, will agree, almost without parallel in British journalistic history since Piggott. That is all I want to say.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, the publication of this picture in the Daily Express was certainly a very grave error, and I am not satisfied that sufficient care was taken to ascertain whether or not it was a forgery. Nor am I entirely satisfied that a sufficiently full apology was given when the error came to light. I have been to Ghana on three occasions, but I do not think this is the appropriate time for talking about conditions in Ghana. That is not really the issue. I have risen partly because of the references to Dr. Busia, whom I have met. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, intended to attack Dr. Busia; but, in case that impression was created, I must say that I have been impressed by his fairmindedness and his genuine concern for the welfare of his country, although he is now living in this country. It may be that Dr. Busia was deceived; I do not know. I have not discussed this matter with him. But I should not like it to be suggested that he has been acting other than in good faith, at any rate without more evidence.
But the main point of course is that the publication of this picture was most unfortunate. This kind of thing tends to bring discredit to the British Press. I am sure noble Lords would agree that, on the whole, the British Press maintains very high standards, and I hope this regrettable departure from those high standards will soon be forgotten and will not do damage throughout the Commonwealth.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, there are only two aspects of this matter which seem to me worth while underlining. The first is part of the clearing up of the squalid history at the Daily Express itself. The Ghanaian editors, in their correspondence with the Daily Express Editor, asked him not only to inform the newspapers which syndicated the famous photograph that it was a forgery—which of course he did—but also whether he would insist on the printing of a rectification of the fraud in their papers just as he had agreed to print it in his own paper. They went further than this and said that, in the event that any of these foreign newspapers refused to print that rectification, they considered the Daily Express ought to pay for advertising space at their own expense in those papers in order to rectify the matter. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the Daily Express have not done this, or at any rate not communicated to the Ghanaian editors who have been handling the matter even the list of the papers which have printed the forged photograph. This is a very practical point.
The Government of Ghana is not an immensely wealthy one with world-wide resources. One can well imagine it must be a continuous embarrassment and nagging suspicion to them that the thing has been appearing in many newspapers they have not seen it in, and they are themselves deprived of the possibility of correcting it because they do not know where it has appeared. I think this matter is one the Press Council might well investigate and I hope it will see fit to counsel the Daily Express to take that action which the Ghanaian editors have asked for, or, at the very least, publish a list of the papers which syndicated or could have syndicated the photograph.
If I may say one word about the question of prisoners in Ghana, like everybody in Britain, I have for years been reading reports of the fact that not only are there political prisoners in Ghana without trial but also that they have been mistreated, chained, have died in mysterious circumstances and all the rest of it. I think we can all agree that one should regret the existence of such a thing as an untried political prisoner anywhere in the world, but there is indeed a sharp dividing line between that and the physical 1428 mistreatment of prisoners in prison. In this context it is very much part of this story to notice what Dr Nkrumah said in April of this year in Ghana. Your Lordships will remember the context of this. He had been urged to admit inspection by international or Commonwealth organisations into the Ghana prisons. Having previously said, "No, I do not agree that my country is so different from others, simply because a forged photograph has been published, that I should submit it to international inspection any more than any other country would", what he said was:To those who appear to be so concerned about conditions in our prisons to the extent of even forging photographs about them we offer a challenge. The Government of Ghana have decided to invite representatives of the Christian Council. the Archbishop of the Catholic Church of Ghana. Bishop R. R. Roseveare of the Anglian Church of Ghana. Bishop Bowers, the Catholic Bishop of Accra ",—an American—representatives of the Muslim Council and the Red Cross of Ghana to inspect conditions in our prisons and to let the world know the truth.I do not know whether that invitation or challenge was taken up by the Bishops or the Church Council. I do not know whether they have inspected the prisons or, if they have, what they have found. But I am sure that in the future newspapers in this country, or any other, which allege improper conditions in Ghana's prisons are more or less bound to inquire of that Church Council what happened to the President's invitation.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, before my noble friend rises to reply, I would submit that the House should consider for a moment what may be a possible aftermath to this debate. As I conceive it, it should result, and I hope it will, in immensely strengthening the position of Dr. Nkrumah in Ghana, and just because of this likely sequel to this debate, perhaps it might not be inappropriate at this stage to express the hope that because of his strengthened position Dr. Nkrumah may try to avoid any policy of undue repression of his Opposition. Just because he will be left in a position of vastly greater strength, may the hope go out from this House that he will in future exercise that strength wisely and carefully, so that one of the possible results of this debate may not be an 1429 increase in the repression that may conceivably be going on in Ghana at this moment, of which we have not heard sufficient evidence in this debate, and that the Opposition may not, as a result of this debate, be caused to suffer in any way.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government cannot in any way complain about my noble friend Lord Brockway's having put down this Question. In addition he was kind enough to send me all the papers, and also to warn me in advance of the particular points which he intended to raise. I am sure we are all grateful to him for his interesting review of this most difficult situation and for having made it the occasion of the notable speech by my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams, and the contributions by the other noble Lords who have spoken.
I must be exact in what I now say and I will therefore stick closely to my brief, because I want to give my noble friend a really accurate answer. I have listened with interest to his account of the controversy between the Daily Express and the Ghanaian Ministry of Information and certain Ghanaian editors about the photograph published in the Daily Express of March 17. The noble Lord has put on the Order Paper a precise Question, whether Her Majesty's Government will establish an inquiry into the circumstances which led the Daily Express to publish the photograph of alleged political prisoners in chains. To this the answer must be, No. I would add that Her Majesty's Government of course deplore any misrepresentation of the truth and regret that in this case offence was caused to another Commonwealth country.
I understand that before the Daily Express published the retraction to which the noble Lord referred, the High Commissioner for Ghana addressed a letter to the Chairman of the Press Council asking him to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the publication of this photograph and the subsequent events. It would not be appro 1430 priate for the Government to seek to established an inquiry into the actions of a newspaper in a case of this kind. The Press Council, not the Government, is the right body to decide whether an investigation should be made, and to make the investigation in public or private if it decides that there should be one. No doubt the noble Lord and others concerned will make sure that all the evidence available to them is at the disposal of the Press Council, and that body will no doubt take note of the statement which my noble friend has made here tonight.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him, all it will do is to take note.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, I feel that this really must be left to the Press Council, in whom I have great faith.
§ LORD TAYLOR
We shall see who is right. My noble friend asked me two other questions. He asked whether the Director of Public Prosecutions would consider a prosecution for criminal libel, and said that the Director of Public Prosecutions should consider a prosecution for perjury if sworn statements have been made. I cannot, of course, answer for the Director of Public Prosecutions. I am, however, informed that if the noble Lord has any evidence which he thinks should be considered with a view to prosecution for any offence, his correct course would be to send the evidence to the police authorities and ask them to investigate the matter.