The decision by the BBC Trust to uphold at least part of the complaint against Panorama over a fine piece of television investigative journalism is spineless and appalling. It has resulted in thousands of furious tweets being posted.
Respected media commentator Roy Greenslade, a former Fleet Street editor, blogged: "It goes against natural justice to find against the journalist and producers on what it calls 'the balance of probabilities.' Dan McDougall is an intrepid, award-winning investigative reporter with a superb record in exposing human rights violations."
"Frank Simmonds is an experienced producer who has been responsible for many important revelatory Panorama programmes."
There are many issues involved in this extraordinary affair, which dates back to the screening of the programme three years ago this month, and has already been the subject of an internal BBC inquiry.
The Trust, packed with British Establishment figures, is not prepared to defend that most precious democratic pillar of freedom of the press by backing its brave journalists against a mighty multinational. It has given its verdict based on just 45 seconds of filmed material in the hour-long documentary about the alleged use of child labour, Primark: On the rack.
When the clothing retailer originally complained that the segment - which showed young boys in Bangalore making clothes - was faked, the BBC's editorial complaints unit held an inquiry and cleared the programme makers.
Primark then appealed to the Trust. It responded with a lengthy, and apparently painstaking, investigation, which included sending a representative to India.
That investigation by the Trust's editorial standards committee could not discover, one way or the other, whether the film was faked or not. It states:
"The committee considered that there was not one piece of irrefutable and conclusive evidence which would enable it to say for certain (ie, beyond reasonable doubt) whether the footage was or was not staged.
However, the committee was not required to reach a view beyond reasonable doubt... Having carefully scrutinised all of the relevant evidence, the committee concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, it was more likely than not that the Bangalore footage was not authentic."
The committee cites several reasons for this, mainly to do with supposed "inconsistencies" in their "reading" of the footage.
In other words, the Trust is accusing McDougall of unethical behaviour. And it is doing so after admitting it lacks certainty.
McDougall added: "I have rarely seen a finding so unjust in outcome, flawed in process, and deeply damaging to independent investigative journalism."
It would not surprise me if McDougall were to seek a review by court judges. He has more grounds than Ryan Giggs to sue for libel, with such a nasty slander against his fine reputation having been made by bosses who should be defending his good name.
McDougall is the Sunday Times Africa correspondent and has made other Panorama programmes. He is a former British foreign correspondent of the year and has won three Amnesty awards.
It should also be noted that in a further investigation into Primark - published six months after the Panorama documentary - McDougall exposed the company for employing illegal immigrants in a UK sweatshop, a story published in the News of the World. Yet this so-called judgment - which requires the corporation to apologise for the documentary on air - puts a dirty stain against their names on the most flimsy of grounds.
* Readers may remember our similar expose of Ikea. It is still one of the most popular stories on The-Latest.Com, attracting hits from all over the world.