HIGHLIGHTS

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EAST TIMOR

Following years of violence after the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia in 1975, the resignation of Indonesian President Hajji Suharto (1921-2008) triggered an independence referendum in 1999. The vote for freedom was followed by violence as pro-integration East Timorese militia (with the support of parts of the Indonesian military) campaigned against the separation. Order was restored after an Australian-led peacekeeping mission had been sent, after which the administration of East Timor was taken over by the United Nations. In 1999, the United Nations compound was under siege, with over 1,500 people held inside by armed forces. Marie Colvin was one of only three female journalists who stayed to the end, and her reports to the Sunday Times (along with other broadcast media) that brought the siege to international attention are credited with saving the lives of those held there.

 

Fawthrop, Tom. “East Timor braves poll bloodbath.” Sunday Times, 29 Aug. 1999

Colvin, Marie, et al. “Terror follows Timor freedom vote.” Sunday Times, 5 Sept. 1999

“Inside the East Timor siege camp.” Sunday Times, 12 Sept. 1999

Colvin, Merie. “A friend lost in the horror of East Timor.” Sunday Times, 26 Sept. 1999

THE HITLER DIARIES

In 1983 the Sunday Times was caught up in one of the greatest frauds of the 20th century. They signed a deal with the German magazine Stern to serialise the newly discovered “Hitler Diaries”, which Stern had acquired for £2.3/$3.7 million in 1983. The diaries had been ‘discovered’ in a barn and sold to Stern by Konrad Kujau (1938-2000), a former Nazi party member and Nazi memorabilia collector who had become a counterfeiter in the 1960s.  Although initially authenticated by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), the diaries were quickly discovered to be crude forgeries after being subjected to forensic analysis. Many discrepancies were found, from questions about the chronology (and how Hitler could have written the diaries after an arm injury), to chemical analysis of the binding showing the presence of materials not produced before the war. The Sunday Times defended the authenticity of the diaries for two weeks, before eventually conceding that it had been deceived.

 

Barber, Frank. “The secrets of Hitler’s war.” Sunday Times, 24 Apr. 1983

Potter, Elaine. “Fact or fake - the balance of evidence.” Sunday Times, 1 May 1983

Sereny, Gitta. “The Hitler Diaries: hunt for the forger.” Sunday Times, 8 May 1983

“Scoop! Fake! Fake!” Sunday Times, 8 May 1983

ISRAEL’S WEAPONS

In 1986, the Sunday Times published the revelation that Israel had been building nuclear weapons. After seeking confirmation that their source was providing legitimate information, the Sunday Times approached the Israeli embassy, they published the information in 1986, revealing that Israel had manufactured over one hundred nuclear warheads at the Negev Nuclear Research Centre in Dimona. The Sunday Times was provided with information and photographs covertly taken at the facility that supported the claims, which were verified before the story was run. The revelations were provided by Mordechai Vanunu (1954-), a former nuclear technician who contacted the press due to his opposition to weapons of mass destruction. He was abducted by Israeli intelligence agents and taken back to Israel, where he was convicted of treason in 1988, in a trial held behind closed doors. The Sunday Times followed Vanunu’s story, keeping it in the public consciousness.

 

Hounam, Peter, et al. “Nuclear bomb factory.” Sunday Times, 5 Oct. 1986

“France admits it gave Israel A-bomb.” Sunday Times, 12 Oct. 1986

“How Israeli agents snatched Vanunu.” Sunday Times, 9 Aug. 1987

Hounam, Peter. “Hopes rise for release of Vanunu as Israel admits its nuclear bomb.” Sunday Times, 31 Dec. 1995

KIM PHILBY

In 1967, the Sunday Times recorded one of the greatest coups in journalism, confronting the former MI6 agent Kim Philby (1912-1988) in Moscow, and outing him as a Soviet spy. Running over several weeks, the scoop caused a sensation. Philby was a high-ranking member of the British intelligence services, who had defected the Soviet Union in 1963. Before this, Philby had worked as The Times’ and The Telegraph’s correspondent in the early years of World War II, before being offered a role in the War Office. He would later work as a Middle East correspondent for The Economist, which served as cover for his MI6 activity. Philby was revealed as one of a spy ring known as the ‘Cambridge Five’, supplying secret information to the Soviet Union. Over three decades, Philby’s duplicity had almost certainly led to the loss of several British agents and Russian defectors, along with the exposure of many state secrets, yet the secret services were strongly suspected of a cover-up.

 

“Philby: I spied for Russia from 1933.” Sunday Times, 1 Oct. 1967

“Philby and Maclean: The Years of Damage.” Sunday Times, 15 Oct. 1967

“Secret Trial of Kim Philby.” Sunday Times, 22 Oct. 1967

“Kim Philby: the spy who laughed last.” The Sunday Times Magazine. Sunday Times, 24 Aug. 1969

THALIDOMIDE CAMPAIGN

Initially prescribed to pregnant women to treat morning sickness, thalidomide became linked to severe birth defects in children born to mothers who had taken the drug during pregnancy. Shortly after the drug began to be sold in pharmacies in West Germany, over 5,000 infants were born with malformed limbs, with a 60% mortality rate. Worldwide, over 10,000 cases of limb malformation connected to thalidomide were reported, with only 50% of children surviving.  The drug was withdrawn from circulation in the United Kingdom in 1961, after approximately 2,000 children were born with defects, with around half dying. The Sunday Times spent a decade campaigning for compensation for the victims, providing case studies and evidence of the tragic side-effects of the drug. The efforts paid off in 1968, when The Distillers Company (the UK distributor of the drug) agreed to a multi-million pound pay out for the victims, and the Sunday Times continued to follow the aftermath of the case for years afterwards.

 

a Sunday Times Reporter. “Sleeping Pill is Withdrawn.” Sunday Times, 3 Dec. 1961

“The Thalidomide File.” Sunday Times, 19 May 1968

Fielding, John. “Another 120 parentes seek damages over Thaildomide children.” Sunday Times, 26 Jan. 1969

Moynihan, Michael. “Ten years after—the bleakest days for thalidomide parents.” Sunday Times, 30 Apr. 1972

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