The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There is a good reason why witnesses giving sworn testimony in court are required to take their oath in that particular way — used across the English-speaking world — namely that dishonesty comes in many forms. It is entirely possible to deceive people without a direct falsehood. Leaving out important information, or over-stressing particular facts that support one interpretation of a situation or incident, can be just as deceitful as a plain old lie. This is what is meant by the old philosophical-legal concept of suppressio veri, referring to a “lie of omission”.
Which brings us to the latest BBC reporting on Prince Charles and a donation to his Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation (PWCF) by a Qatari politician. On the evening of 20th July a BBC news alert went out to millions of smartphone users saying that “the Charity Commission will not take further action over a £2.5m cash donation to one of Prince Charles’ charities”. It was the conclusion of a story, first reported by the Sunday Times in June, that the Prince had accepted charitable donations in cash.
The article to which the news alert linked, while not omitting the fact that the PWCF had been cleared of any wrongdoing, walks right up to the line of suggesting that the heir to the throne has got off on a technicality. It repeats the unproven allegations made in the original reporting of the story, and emphasises the various defences and denials made by the PWCF in such a way as to make them sound like they protest too much.
The write-up even includes an unfounded opinion expressed by ex-MP Norman Baker, after the story first broke in the Sunday Times, that the donation was “grubby and scuzzy”. This is a curious decision when the latest development in the story is that the sector regulator concluded the donation was above board.
I don’t think anyone would claim that the Prince of Wales has consistently displayed impeccable judgment throughout his career, and he will undoubtedly have to work hard to restrain some of his more controversial opinions when he accedes to the throne. However, his charities do an enormous amount of good work across the country. He himself has spent his entire life in service to the country, despite his difficult and often frustrating position as an incredibly long-serving heir apparent. He has even been something of a prophet on matters like the environment and architecture.
Why does the BBC think it is its job to fan the flames of synthetic controversies cobbled together by the Sunday papers? It’s not in the interest of the country nor the causes the Prince supports.