Coup 53 alleges that we, End of Empire, filmed an interview with MI6 spy Norman Darbyshire (we did not) and that we colluded with government to censor it and continue to engage in a cover-up, as Walter has asserted on several public occasions* (see below).
We wrote to Coup 53 in August 2020 when we saw the film for the first time requesting that they remove these claims because they are false.
Amirani replied on 7th September 2020 arguing that he had “credible evidence” that Darbyshire was included in an early version of the EoE Iran film”. Below we expose point by point why there is no such evidence.
How Amirani Media justifies its claim that the Darbyshire transcript was from a filmed interview
- Coup 53 point 1: they claimed that the duration of words spoken on each tape (in the transcript) roughly corresponds to the 15 minute length of a 5” reel of Nagra tape (at 7.5 ips), which were commonly used in 1983 to accompany a film shoot.
It is not possible to time the duration of words in this transcript. The transcript is not verbatim and contains abbreviated questions and discussion summaries
E.g. [Tape 1 p.2 ‘(At this point is explained the focus of the programme and the dates and events.)’ How long did that take? ; Tape 1 p.3 ‘(The relevant pages of the book are talked about)’ How long did that take?]
We recorded Darbyshire’s voice on ordinary Walkman type cassette tapes – C15s; C30s were 15 mins each side; C60s were 30 mins each side. Coup53’s argument is not proof that the tapes came from a Nagra recording. It’s one of several interpretations.
- Coup 53 Point 2: they claimed that the 14-page transcript of Darbyshire’s interview does not resemble the records of sound-only, research, pre-interviews of other EoE interviewees such as that of Stephen Meade. And that the Darbyshire transcript was typed word-for-word in its entirety.
The Darbyshire transcript was not typed word for word at all. There are summaries of discussions and of questions and answers all the way through. E.g. [Tape 2, p.7 ‘(brief discussion about Khavan incident, Eden’s trust in Julian Amery…didn’t work)’; Tape 2, p. 8 –qu. (Summary: ‘Mossadegh’s breaking off of relations – suspect conspiracy?’).]
Darbyshire’s answers were typed in more detail than other research interviews because his testimony was so crucial. Some research interviews were done on the phone so will have been shorter. Our record had to be absolutely accurate as he told us he wouldn’t go on record and we were unsure we’d ever persuade him to change his mind. His testimony enabled us to exactly plot the coup, then encourage others to speak out on camera.
- Coup 53 Point 3: they argued that the cut-up copy of the Darbyshire transcript suggests it was part of a paper edit for film editors.
The cut-up copy of the Darbyshire transcript was found in the working documents of the programme’s researcher and was done for the director at the research stage before any interviews had been filmed in order to help the team construct the complex story of the coup. The format of the transcript is similar to other typed up research interviews – single spaced with typing errors. The format of film interview transcripts which would be used in a paper edit for editors is completely different – double spaced with roll and slate numbers. See the Stephen Meade interview transcript here.
- Coup 53 Point 4: They pointed to the cameraman’s testimony that he’d filmed Darbyshire as evidence.
The cameraman has since withdrawn his statement in writing to Coup 53 and asked them to remove him from the film. He believes he was misled by Amirani who told him unequivocally that a filmed interview with Darbyshire had taken place, and he confirms that he misidentified Norman Darbyshire.
How Amirani Media justifies its claim that End of Empire: Iran was censored and that a cover-up persists
- Coup 53 Point 5: They claimed that there was clear and compelling evidence to suggest that parts of Darbyshire’s explosive interview were at one point included within a version of the Iran film.
Amirani quotes Heda Matine-Daftary’s second hand testimony that Alison and Mark told him the agent had been present at a preview screening and asked to be removed. We refute this. Matine-Daftary was not at the screening which he was told (Amirani informs us) took place in late 1983/early 1984. That is impossible. Editing on the Iran film did not begin until Autumn 1984. No screening of any sort could have taken place in late1983, early 1984. Might Heda be misremembering his second-hand evidence of an event at which he was not present?
Coup 53’s sole other ‘witness’ to the possible collusion in censorship and cover up has called Coup 53,’ fraudulent’ and ‘bullshit’.
- Coup 53 Point 6: They claim that the chinagraph marks on the Stephen Meade interview rushes prove that he was intercut with Darbyshire’s testimony.
They do not. They show only that Meade was at some point included in a rough assembly of the programme. They are not evidence that film of Darbyshire existed, whatever relation Meade’s comments have to Darbyshire. To state that ‘it’s a rule’ that a person referred to must appear in a film is disingenuous and misleading. It’s not a universal ‘rule’. It proves nothing about Darbyshire being in any cut of the film.
- Coup 53 Point 7: They claim that the fact that Darbyshire’s name is blanked out on the Meade transcript is evidence that he was in a version of the film
We made an agreement with Darbyshire that we would conceal his identity. Therefore his name appeared only in the team’s private transcripts, and was excised from transcripts of other interviewees, including those lodged in the programme archives.
- Coup 53 Point 8: They claim that The Observer May 1985 article described a film which does not resemble the broadcast version of End of Empire: Iran. They claim that Nigel Hawkes was reviewing the film which contained the testimony of an ‘MI6 agent’ . They also claim that a number of quotes from the agent were included in the article which did not appear in the broadcast programme.
This is an inaccurate description of the Observer article. It also reveals a fundamental flaw in their belief that the Observer article supports their claims. The article was published the day before the programme was aired on Channel 4. It makes it clear that the MI6 agent was not filmed for the programme. The article did not ‘describe’ or ‘review’ a film. It reports the contents of an unnamed MI6 agent’s interview, clearly stating: ‘the MI6 man will not be seen; he declined to be filmed to protect his identity.’ This crucial fact is withheld from Coup 53’s audience. When interviewed by phone for Coup 53 Nigel Hawkes the reporter is unable to remember whether he saw the film or just the transcript or both.
In short Coup 53 have based their claims on extremely shaky foundations.
After we pointed out their claims were inaccurate and requested amendments, they made minimal commentary changes and on legal advice added end captions stating that we, the End of Empire team deny that Darbyshire was ever filmed and deny there was any censorship.
However the false narrative remains the key to nearly an hour of the film, along with its unforgivable slur on the integrity of the End of Empire team.
* See the LAPCUG video: Behind the Scenes of Coup 53 with Walter Murch
- “No it was originally going to be four days of the coup in Aug 1953. But once we started to dig these shards of mystery that had been deliberately suppressed emerged. And the more that emerged, more and more stuff started coming out.” -Walter Murch
- “Darbyshire did a interview with End of Empire where he spilled the beans, and MI6 found out about it and they yanked him and they had to re-cut the film and we found a stray thread, evidence of a transcript of that interview and we began to follow that.” -Walter Murch