A Question for the Beeb

I was interested to read this article in which the BBC prominently reported accusations that Saddam was attackedon his way from the court room in which he was being questioned- accusations that have been denied by the US military.

According to the article, the lawyers who made the claim did not “recognise the authority of the court and all the bodies that were interrogating Saddam as it had no legal authority“. Right. So they don’t recognise the authority of the court that represents the democratically elected government of Iraq, which was enabled by the US-British invasion of Iraq. And if these have no authority over Saddam I presume he would have no problem lying to them.

But, my question is this: if the chain of authority which has placed Saddam in court has no weight with Saddam’s lawyers, a chain of authority which includes the US, the UK and the UN’s political apparatus, why should Saddam and his lawyers respect the integrity of the BBC? Why not just lie to them? In these circumstances, then, why is the Beeb playing the matter so neutrally (er, not even neutrally really as the assertions are so much more prominent than the denials)? It should be clear that, on the day that Saddam was being questioned about his mass-murdering activities, his lawyers would be looking for a media distraction.

Listen On Thursday

Rashid Ramda is an Algerian who has been in Belmarsh prison for the last ten years, accused of financing the 1995 Paris Metro bombings which killed 11 people, and fighting extradition to an uncivilised country where confessions are extracted by the use of torture. Judges agreed with him, blocking his extradition to France in 2002.

This site chronicles Mr Ramda’s many fine qualities, the hideous regime under which he is kept, and the ‘Scottish lady Ann’ who has been his only visitor.

You can listen to his “letters filled with poetry, descriptions of the Sahara, and discussions about English literature”, addressed to that same Scottish lady, on Radio Four FM on Thursday.

“Letters from Belmarsh – Thu 28 Jul, 20:00 – 20:30 30 mins

An extraordinary glimpse behind the bars of Belmarsh Prison, through the correspondence between a Scottish grandmother and a Muslim man fighting extradition to France. Rachid Ramda, accused of the Paris Metro bombing, sends letters filled with poetry, descriptions of the Sahara, and discussions about English literature”



UPDATE – the broadcast was pulled at (shortish) notice yesterday, to be replaced by an edition of Crossing Continents. I haven’t found out why. The link above is now defunct (indeed the programme seems to have disappeared ftom the BBC website), but the programme description is here.

Letters From Belmarsh

8.00-8.30pm BBC RADIO 4

Saleya Ahsan presents this programme about a Scottish grandmother, Ann, who, through a chance encounter, started writing to prisoners held under terrorism laws at Belmarsh. In the beginning, she knew nothing about the legislation, or about Muslims.“I’d never met one; there is no Muslim community where I live.” But over the last two years of correspondence, her perceptions, fears and beliefs have been challenged and changed, and this ordinary woman has become a fervent human rights campaigner – although she doesn’t like to be called a campaigner.

The men she writes to include an Algerian accused of having a role in the Nineties Paris Metro bombing, who has been held on remand for nine years without charge. He writes poetry to her. Through him, she learns about another severely depressed Algerian who has no arms and has had periods of solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Depression is an illness rife amongst the internees. None have seen their families since their detention yet there have been no charges, no trials and no convictions. Ann has become an unlikely expert in internment, the justice system and high-security prisons.

Presenter/Saleya Ahsan, Producer/Lynne Mennie

I have italicised a couple of lines above. What is NOT mentioned is that

a) Mr Ramda has been fighting extradition to France, so far successfully
b) like all Belmarsh detainees, Mr Ramda and his Algerian colleague are free to leave at any time, providing they leave the UK. if they prefer to remain in detention, that is their decision, unless they can find no other country willing to accept them. In which case, it might be asked, should they be free to live in the UK ?

Doubtless these pertinent questions will be answered in the programme itself. Anyone got a transcript ?

Are The Times A’Changing At The BBC ?

Today we heard from Kofi Annan’s Chief of Staff (RealAudio) discussing the ‘search for a UN definition of terrorism’.

March 17th, 2004.

BBC Today programme, 8.35. “In the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, we discuss the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist.””We” being Leila Khaled, Palestinian hijacker and hostage-taker, and Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein/IRA publicity head (and the man who has the last word on what happens to republican ‘informers’).RealAudio link here.

The BBC’s Radio Times TV guide this evening

has a good example of BBC think:

Abroad Again in Britain

BBC2 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral boasts the highest spire in Britain. Jonathan Meades, who was raised in its shadow, returns to one of the country’s finest medieval buildings. He wonders how an atheist can love a building dedicated to the propagation of medieval superstitions and fears.

Can you imagine that last sentence being used to refer to, say, a mosque or a temple or a synagogue? No, me neither.

Top marks today to Scott Burgess of The Daily Ablution

for exposing a Guardian journalist, Dilpazier Aslam, as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the Guardian’s failure to either notice or disclose this fact in relation to articles Aslam wrote on, for instance, the case of Shabina Begum (which appears to have been a Hizb ut-Tahrir put up job from the off) and the recent terrorist attacks in London, on which Aslam opined that:

Second- and third-generation Muslims are without the don’t-rock-the boat attitude that restricted our forefathers. We’re much sassier with our opinions, not caring if the boat rocks or not.

and that people should not be shocked by the London terrorist attacks because:

Shocked would be to suggest that the bombings happened through no responsibility of our own

Nice guy! Strangely enough though, even though this story has been running since Wednesday, July 13th (ten days ago), and was covered in The Independent (who doubtless overcame their annoyance with Scott’s digs at them to have a good kick at their Guardian rivals!), ‘Guardian’ man revealed as hardline Islamist six days ago, it has yet to make any appearance at all on BBC News Online or, as far as I am aware, in any BBC broadcast output.

Still, now that The Guardian has finally done the decent thing and sacked Aslam (albeit in a typically leftie mealy-mouthed sort of a way), I expect the BBC will finally get round to reporting it.

To save you some trouble Beeboids, here are links to Scott’s original posts:

And links to The Guardian’s articles on the subject:

Now, where do you think it should go?
Ah, Entertainment, that’s the ticket!

P.S. Be careful about repeating that bit about Scott allegedly spending “his time indoors posting repeated attacks on the Guardian for its stance on the environment, its columnists such as Polly Toynbee, and its recent intervention in the US presidential election campaign” – it smacks of sour grapes.

Update: From today’s Sunday Times, re. the case of Shabina Begum: Lords to rule on Muslim clothes. Let us hope that justice will prevail this time, in particular to protect vulnerable Muslim girls from being pressurised by male relatives about what they wear. Let us also hope that the BBC will remember to mention Cherie Booth’s role (or otherwise) this time.

UK boy wrongly labelled bomber

The third story on BBC News Online’s home page just now (immediately below the story about today’s terrorist, sorry BBC, insurgent attacks in London) is headlined UK boy wrongly labelled bomber, complete with a picture and paragraph reading:

Evidence that London bomber Hasib Hussain visited Pakistan is called into question by a teenager sharing his name.

The story itself begins:

Evidence showing that all three of the London bombers of Pakistani descent visited Pakistan last year has been thrown into doubt.

A photograph of a passport purporting to show bomber Hasib Hussain was in fact that of a 16-year-old British boy with the same name.

The photo, together with documentation showing two other bombers visited Pakistan, was published on Monday.

This may well be true, with the clear implication from the BBC’s story and headline presentation that Hasib Hussain (the terrorist) hasn’t been to Pakistan. But (and there’s so often a ‘but’ with the BBC these days), if we look elsewhere, including at the BBC’s own recent coverage (obviously long forgotten about in the BBC Viewsroom), we find in, for instance, Suicide bombers’ ‘ordinary’ lives that:

Teenager Hasib Hussain had been known as a tearaway during his early teens.

Newspapers reported how he would start fights with fellow pupils at the Matthew Murray Secondary school in Leeds.

He left school in July 2003 with seven GCSEs.

Around this time, he was sent to Pakistan to visit relatives. He also went on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, grew a beard and began to wear robes.

Despite becoming devoutly religious, he was arrested for shoplifting during 2004.

According to Pakistani officials, Hasib Hussain also visited Karachi last July, but when he left and his port of exit have not been established.

So, whilst the Hasib Hussain that visited Pakistan 12 months ago may well not have been Hasib Hussain the terrorist, it seems quite clear that Hasib Hussain the terrorist did visit Pakistan at least as recently as 18 to 24 months ago, when, according to the BBC, he “grew a beard and began to wear robes”.

These facts about the travels of Hasib Hussain the terrorist are very pertinent to today’s BBC story about the possible identity mix-up with Hasib Hussain the non-terrorist, yet today’s BBC story omits these facts entirely and infers that Hasib Hussain the terrorist hadn’t visited Pakistan at all, even though they don’t actually say that. Once more we are left to wonder if this sort of inaccuracy is down to ignorance and incompetence or if it’s a straightforward attempt to manufacture one story out of another.

BBC News Online’s

Public split over new hate laws reports a BBC survey purporting to show public support for the government’s proposed ‘incitement to religious hatred’ laws. Rottweiler Puppy has given the story, and the underlying survey, a thorough mauling in his post Religious Hate Bill Stalls: BBC Get Out And Push.

Given the BBC’s enthusiasm for helping the democratic process along with such polls I look forward to BBC News Online carrying out and publishing more polls to gauge public opinion on, for instance:

  • Capital punishment: yes or no?
  • Yobs: time for the birch again?
  • Judges: time to elect them?
  • EU membership: good value?
  • Immigration: more or less?
  • Paedophiles: throw away the key?
  • Burglars: was Tony Martin right?
  • Dangerous aliens: send ’em home?
  • Road tax: spend more on roads?
  • Railway subsidies: good value?
  • Sunday shopping: 6hrs or 24hrs?
  • Telly-tax, adverts or subscriptions?
  • NHS: should entitlement be verified?
  • Schools: ditto;
  • 0870 customer service: a rip-off?
  • Mugabe: time for regime change?

and so on and so forth! I’m sure between us and BBC News Online we can think of lots of issues where UK government and public policy is deficient or lagging behind or plain doesn’t match the will of the British people – ideal topics for BBC News Online to survey and document for the benefit of the people who are forced to pay for it!

Stephen Pollard takes BBC News to task again – How not to count bodies:

Splashed on the front page of The Independent yesterday, was the figure 24,865. “Revealed: Iraq’s Civilian Death Toll”, read the headline.

It was not alone. The BBC’s bulletins ran with the same figure, as did the Daily Mirror and The Guardian — derived, said the latter, from “a detailed study of the human cost of the conflict”.

There is only one problem with the figure — not that you would know it from the credulous reporting. It is an entirely arbitrary figure published by political agitators.

The figure was released yesterday by two organisations, Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group. According to the BBC, the former “is one of the most widely-quoted sources of information on the civilian death toll in Iraq”. Indeed it is — because the BBC itself reports its propaganda as fact.

Do read the rest!

I saw this BBC News Online story last week,

UK multi-culturism under spotlight, by Roger Hardy, BBC “Islamic Affairs Analyst”, but didn’t have the energy to get stuck into it at the time. Thankfully, Dumbjon has been on the case, and has done a remarkably good demolition job, Beeb Bandwagon Hits Clue Tree, Reverses, Steers Round It, in his own inimitable style. The post below it is rather funny as well.

Accuracy and precision in news speak – a quiz:

Spot the difference between yesterday’s reports:

BBC News: “Sir Edward, who took us into the Common Market…”;

Sky News: “Sir Edward, who took us into the then Common Market…”;

A hint, for those too young to remember the Common Market: it was another name for the EEC, the European Economic Community, which Britain voted to join in 1973. It ceased to exist when, without any further referendum, the EEC became the EC (European Community), and then later became the EU, that we all know and love to this day, so much so that there has been no need for another referendum.

Another link via Norman Geras, to an Observer article

in which he is quoted – Stop castrating the language, by Nick Cohen, continuing the theme that:

A misguided obsession with objective reporting is undermining the BBC’s credibility as a news organisation.

Cohen makes a number of excellent points, for example: “the relativist wisdom that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ is not as secure as the saloon-bar sages and BBC managers maintain” and “At the BBC and elsewhere, the pressure of events has pushed neutrality into euphemism and euphemism to the edge of outright falsehood. And nowhere more so than in the case of that pretty circumlocution – ‘insurgent'”.

Speaking about Iraq and the reporting thereof, Cohen says:

In theory, it would be clear to everyone that a struggle between fascism and democracy is underway, not a fight against ‘insurgents’. But in practice, this is Iraq which was invaded by the woefully unprepared George W Bush. Solidarity with the victims of fascism was suspended as preparations for war began, which was understandable. But, with the honourable exception of the trade union movement, the indifference has continued, which is scandalous.

In these murky circumstances, filled with self-deceit and double standards, the corruption of language is inevitable. The statement that: ‘Insurgents killed 24 children in Baghdad yesterday’ is entirely different from the statement that: ‘Al-Qaeda and the Baathists killed 24 children in Baghdad yesterday.’ The latter at least allows those members of the audience who want ‘to make their own assessment about who is doing what to whom’ to find out what al-Qaeda and the Baath party believe in and whether decent people should be on the side of the victims or the perpetrators.

The former is castrated language which has been emptied of precise meaning. It gives the vague impression that what we’re up against is the armed wing of Liberal Democrats: a regrettably violent force which, none the less, has understandable demands that may be met.

Cohen’s point about the use of language that discourages viewers from finding out more for themselves, ‘about who is doing what to whom’, is an especially valid criticism of a wide range of BBC News output. Pertinent details and relevant background information are so often ignored or fudged in news reports, at best, to keep things simple for the ‘dumb’ viewers – who are more sensible and intelligent than they are given credit for – or, at worst, to present a particular world view in such a way that viewers may not even realise there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Via Norman Geras, news that we’re not the only ones

Via Norman Geras, news that we’re not the only ones.

The trust that MPs had in the BBC has collapsed, with a majority of Conservatives and a large proportion of Labour members now believing that the corporation’s news coverage is biased.

Four out of ten Labour MPs and two thirds of Tories told MORI, in research conducted for the BBC, they did not believe that it was “free from influence and bias”.


The finding has unsettled BBC governors, who revealed the existence of the research in the corporation’s annual report. But it has not surprised MPs, who believe that the BBC is losing its reputation for objectivity.

Note to BBC News and Sky News:

Bombs (sorry, blasts, as you term them) take lives – they do NOT ‘claim’ them (see News Online homepage and Turkish resort blast claims lives).

Sky News’ online version, Deadly explosion on bus, is appropriately unequivocal. Unfortunately, the twerps presenting Sky News just now are also using the emollient ‘claim’ for the apparent murder and grievous injury of real people, all of whose lives mattered as much to them and their families as those of you and your families do to you. Think about it.

Update: As if by magic, the BBC News Online headline now says Turkish resort blast kills four.