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The government is seeking an injunction against the BBC over a potentially explosive story about a spy working abroad, it was revealed last night.

Solicitor General Suella Braverman is ready to ask the High Court to muzzle the upcoming news broadcast, claiming it presents a “risk to people’s lives”, while a source warned: “This is not James Bond, these are real people “.

But the BBC wants to go ahead with the segment, claiming the story is “overwhelmingly in the public interest” and “fully in line” with its editorial standards.

The saga recalls the Spycatcher book affair from the Margaret Thatcher years, in which the government tried to prevent newspapers from publishing allegations made in a revealing novel by former MI5 agent Peter Wright. They eventually lost their offer of an injunction in 1988.

Ahead of a secret court hearing in the coming days, a source told the Telegraph there will be “huge concern” if the BBC story goes ahead.

They told the newspaper: ‘It’s really serious, there are serious risks. The program would be a huge compromise for our security .

Identifying the spy in question would have “very serious consequences for the BBC” and would be “a risk to people’s lives,” the source continued, adding: “These people are doing very, very difficult jobs under unbelievable circumstances.”

They are risking their lives. This is not James Bond, these are real people.’

The comment on the details of the story, but told the Telegraph its report was in the public interest.

The Attorney General has commenced proceedings against the BBC with a view to obtaining an injunction to prevent the publication.

“We cannot comment further at this stage, beyond confirming that we will not proceed with any story unless it is felt to be in the public interest to do so and is fully in line.”

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said: ‘The Attorney General has lodged an application against the BBC.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while preceding’s are ongoing .”

But a legal expert has warned the government that it must show that the planned story will prove to be a “credible threat to national security” if published, or risk being charged with abuse in court.

(Geoffrey Robertson )

QC told the Telegraph: ‘The British judiciary remains quite receptive to government claims of national security, which is the most frequent false claim made.

“Because it is dealt with in secrecy, otherwise ridiculous claims are taken seriously by a judiciary unwilling to challenge the government on this issue.”

It has been 15 years since the government tried to gag the BBC, after the Labor Party’s Lord Goldsmith received an injunction on honors-money allegations in 2007.

That particular claim was successful because it showed that the transmission of sensitive information would have prejudiced a Metropolitan Police Investigation.

The latest injunction offer comes just days after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced she would freeze the license fee for the next two years in the latest deterioration in relations between the government and the BBC.

The Liverpudlian MP also threatened to stop the vital fee altogether in a social media post, leaving the broadcaster with a potential funding black hole running into the billions.

Quick Facts :
  • Attorney General Suella Braverman to ask High Court to block BBC news piece
  • It is said to concern a spy working overseas and Govt claims story will ‘risk lives’ 
  • BBC insists story is ‘in public interest’ and ‘fully in line’ with editorial standards

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