Thursday, August 09, 2007

Prosecutors accuse Channel 4 of distorting footage of preachers

Police had been asked to investigate the Dispatches film "Undercover Mosque", made by Hardcash Productions, in January because of concerns that it contained scenes that may have stirred racial hatred.

Shot at a number of mosques across Britain, including the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, it featured a preacher apparently praising the Taliban for killing a British soldier.

By Jonathan Brown
Published: 09 August 2007

Channel 4 found itself engulfed in another row over an alleged fake programme last night after West Midlands Police complained to Ofcom about the editing of one of its documentaries.

Another was shown deriding homosexuals and non-believers. In its pre-broadcast publicity, Channel 4 described the programme as an extensive investigation revealing how a "chilling" message of "hatred and segregation" was being preached in UK mosques. But after viewing 56 hours of material, only a fraction of which made the final cut, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claimed the editing process had "completely distorted" what speakers were saying and advised police to drop their criminal investigation.

The row comes amid an ongoing crisis of trust in British television after a string of scandals that has affected all the major terrestrial broadcasters.

Anil Patani, Assistant Chief Constable of the West Midlands, announced yesterday that the force was submitting a formal complaint to the television watchdog about the Dispatches programme.

The CPS's reviewing lawyer, Bethan David, said: "The splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying.

"The CPS has demonstrated it will not hesitate to prosecute those responsible for criminal incitement but, in this case, we have been dealing with a heavily edited programme, apparently taking out of context aspects of speeches which in their totality could never provide a realistic prospect of any convictions."

Dispatches' commissioning editor, Kevin Sutcliffe, denied any irregularities in the way the programme was made and said he was confident of defending the allegations should Ofcom choose to take them any further.

"West Midlands Police have made a very general allegation of unfairness against the programme and have produced no evidence to support their claims," he said. "We find it extraordinary they have gone public on these concerns without discussing them with us first."

Mr Sutcliffe went on: "We believe the comments made in the film speak for themselves. Several speakers were clearly shown making abhorrent and extreme comments... This was a thorough and detailed one-hour documentary, made over nine months, which allowed these comments to be seen in a fuller context."

The Metropolitan Police are looking into another edition of Dispatches broadcast on Monday night. "Britain Under Attack" explored the roots of Islamic extremism in the UK. In it, a man referred to as Abu Muhammed, his face disguised by a scarf, told British Muslims that they were "in a state of war" and that the bombings of 7 July were "justified".

A Met spokesman said they were assessing the content to determine if any offences had been disclosed

1 comment:

  1. The Crown Prosecution Service is right to scrutinize a documentary produced by Hardcash Productions for Channel Four.

    Some irresponsible elements in the media retain their favourite fringe fanatics on the oxygen mask of publicity when it accords them undeserved and unjustifiable attention on prime time without which the rantagogues are far feeble than a fish without water.

    If opinions are not solicited by the networks for a few weeks those loudmouths who survive on soundbites with no following will be reduced to their actual size - trivial, insignificant and unworthy.

    A responsible media does not ask an arsonist for instructions on a fire safety video or a paedophile to advice on safe neighbourhoods.

    Does Channel Four (Undercover Mosque) really need to give a platform on news and documentary programs to fringe elements driven by either xenophobia or zealotry? Do certain sections of media purposely seek rant-bites to attract viewers' attention?

    The media has a clear choice when venturing to inform viewers on delicate but important matters.

    Ask any scholar, student or observer of Islamic Studies if they ever saw any contribution by Abu Izzedin or Anjum Chaudary in a mainstream publication. Check Index Islamicus or participation list of academic conferences in US, al-Azhar,Aligarh University India or Islamia College in Pakistan. No recognized and credible forum ever invites their views.

    Hence, there is no wisdom in bringing people on the media who are unwilling and unable to offer a way out of dilemmas that we encounter and the consequences that we face?

    By giving undue coverage to extremist expression, we will make the real issues hostage to militancy and mulishness.

    Why then marginal, disbalanced and unrepresentative people with irrational and irresponsible views are much sought after for their views in TV documentaries? This certainly goes against the principles of fair representation, consistency, evenhandedness and the right to objective reporting.