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Sunday 19 August 2007

Postscript: Undercover Mosque

The current Private Eye looks into the West Midlands Police decision to complain to the media regulators Ofcom about Channel 4’s Undercover Mosque (see my post 'Support Channel Four over Undercover Mosque').

It points out - as others have previously found out - that Ofcom will only accept complaints from “the person affected”. The police told the Eye that they'd “liaised” with Ofcom beforehand, but this amounted to showing them their press release only 10 minutes before it was issued.

The Eye also asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to cite some examples of the “complete distortion” they had accused Channel 4 of perpetrating on the views of the speakers in the documentary. CPS replied:

No. We don’t go into that level of detail.

Or indeed, the Eye notes, any detail at all.

Hat tip to MediaWatch.

Channel Four's Kevin Sutcliffe has criticised, rightly, the BBC's take on the episode [video]:

"Particularly BBC News 24 which really just ran it as a TV fakery story. They framed the debate early on and that was lazy."

The Tories have weighed in too. Telegraph:

Paul Goodman, the shadow community cohesion minister, has written to Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, saying the decision caused "widespread concern" and warned that it could encourage extremists.

Mr Goodman wrote: "This decision raises serious questions about media freedom in Britain, and about whether public authorities tasked with upholding the rule of law are now, as a matter of policy, giving special assistance to those who seek to undermine the rule of law, and the pluralist, liberal, democratic culture which both underpins it and guarantees community cohesion.

"As you know, the decision has caused widespread concern.

"It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this is a politically motivated referral, driven by the mistaken belief that the best means of dealing with separatist extremists is to appease them.

"If so, this referral is likely to encourage extremists, discourage moderates, damage public confidence in the CPS and West Midlands Police, compromise media freedom and undermine the Government's stated community cohesion policy."

Channel Four have made noises about suing the West Midlands Police and CPS for defamation. With the Tories now picking this up, this one isn't over.

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