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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Sweeney is an award-winning journalist and author, currently working as an investigative journalist for the BBC's Panorama series.

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Investigative journalism

Before joining the BBC in 2001, Sweeney worked for twelve years at The Observer, where he covered wars and revolutions in more than sixty countries including Romania, Algeria, Iraq, Chechnya, Burundi and Bosnia[citation needed].


Barclay brothers suit

In 1996, John Sweeney was sued for criminal defamation in France by the Barclay brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph, but the claimants lost their case. At the time, Sweeney worked for the rival newspaper The Observer, and had given an interview on BBC Radio Guernsey alleging that they had been involved in corruption[1]. Since the broadcast could also be heard in northern France, the claimants were able to bring their claim in the French courts. Sweeney was ordered to pay €3000 by the appeal court in Rennes, France[2].


John Sweeney reported on mass graves in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe for the BBC in 2002. Mugabe had banned BBC reporters from the country, forcing Sweeney to hide in a car boot in order to travel to a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition[3].

Cot death investigation

John Sweeney spent four years investigating the cases of Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony, three women who had been falsely imprisoned for killing their children. Sweeney's investigation helped to clear their names, and led to Sir Roy Meadow, the expert witness whose testimony had proved decisive in their convictions, being temporarily struck off the General Medical Council's medical register. Sweeney received the Paul Foot Award in 2005 in recognition of his work.[4]

Investigative report on Scientology

"Scientology and Me", a Panorama investigation into Scientology written and presented by Sweeney, was aired on BBC One on Monday, 14 May 2007. Prior to its airing, video footage[5] filmed by the Church of Scientology was released on YouTube[6] and on DVD[7] that showed Sweeney shouting at Scientology representative Tommy Davis during a visit to CCHR's "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death". The clips were sections of a documentary the Church of Scientology's Freedom Magazine TV produced about the BBC Panorama programme.[8][9][10]

Sweeney remarked that he lost his temper due to days of harassment by Davis and the Church, and a strong personal reaction to the psychiatry exhibit. He had been visited at his hotel by Davis, despite not having shared the address with the Church, and had been followed on several different occasions.[11] Sweeney labeled the clips "attack videos" and others say they were produced to discredit himself and the documentary.[12]

The BBC in response aired its own full recording of the incident.[13] Panorama's Editor Sandy Smith explained what happened and how the BBC dealt with the incident in a post on the BBC's Editor's Blog.[14] An internal BBC investigation found that Sweeney's conduct at one point in the filming was clearly inappropriate, but also noted that Sweeney had apologized for his outburst and concluded that as a whole, filming of the documentary had been performed in a proper and fair manner.[15][16] Later on that same year in the BBC Panorama year in review Sweeney said “..a new generation is making up its own mind, and for that I make no apology”. Only a month and a half later Project Chanology began.

Sweeney goes into a similar outburst in January 2009 when being interviewed on Radio 4 about the Tom Cruise film Valkyrie — this time as a part of a rehearsed joke, clearly referring to the episode two years previously.[17]


  • Sweeney, John (1991). The Life and Evil Times of Nicolae Ceausescu. Hutchinson. ISBN 0-091746-72-8. 
  • Sweeney, John (1993). Trading with the Enemy: Britain's Arming of Iraq. Pan Books. ISBN 0330331280. 
  • Sweeney, John (1998). Purple Homicide, Fear and Loathing on Knutsford Heath. Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-747539-70-7. 


Sweeney has won several awards throughout his career, including[18]:


  1. ^ "the Barclays, BBC, Times and Sweeney - choosing a forum in cross-border action". Caslon Analytics defamation profile. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  2. ^ Telegraph owners use French courts in libel case; Barclays head for France to sue the Times
  3. ^ BBC NEWS | Programmes | Correspondent | Zimbabwe burning
  4. ^ Sweeney wins Paul Foot Award for ‘relentless pursuit of justice’
  5. ^ Original video clip of John Sweeney's outburst, posted on YouTube May 10, 2007
  6. ^ John Sweeney - BBC Panorama Reporter at work (Scientologist Video of events) - YouTube clip
  7. ^ (Travolta and DVD Distribution by Scientology) The Daily Mail 14th May 2007
  8. ^ BBC Panorama Exposed site showing the full documentary
  9. ^ Daily Telegraph of 15 May 2007, "BBC reporter blows his top at Scientologist", retrieved 2007-06-06
  10. ^ YouTube Clip of John Sweeney's apology
  11. ^ Row over Scientology video, John Sweeney, BBC News, 12th May 2007
  12. ^ Staff; Anderson Cooper (April 14, 2007). "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees - Inside Scientology". Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN). 
  13. ^ BBC Report on John Sweeney (BBC Video of events) - BBC News clip 14th May 2007
  14. ^ Sandy Smith (14 May 2007). "Investigating Scientology" (html). BBC News Editors Blog. "It's not a question of us setting out to call Scientology a cult - it's just a question of us asking legitimate questions, and their organisation being unwilling to engage seriously with us. And when you go in as a journalist to try and deal with that, it's explosive." 
  15. ^ "The BBC man, the Scientologist - and the YouTube rant". The Observer. May 13, 2007.,,2078503,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  16. ^ "BBC man rebuked over Scientology show". Digital Spy. May 14, 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  17. ^ Recording of Interview with Sweeney on BBC Radio 4 about the film Valkyrie
  18. ^ Award list Available: Accessed: 17th May, 2007

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

John Sweeney is an award-winning journalist and author, currently working as an investigative journalist for the BBC's Panorama series.


  • I look like an exploding tomato and shout like a jet engine and every time I see it, it makes me cringe.

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