Archive for August, 2007

More Undercover Mosque

Some more backlash about the West Midland Police and CPS extraordinary decision to widen their remit to that of TV criticism.

First, a ballsy letter to The Guardian from Channel 4’s Kevin Sutcliffe:

In response to Mohammed Shafiq (Letters, August 10): neither the West Midlands police nor the Crown Prosecution Service have produced any evidence whatsoever to support their extraordinary and damaging allegations of unfairness made against Dispatches: Undercover Mosque. I am very confident of successfully defending this charge against the programme should the police decide to provide Ofcom with any evidence.

The highly offensive comments made in the programme speak for themselves – the speakers concerned were clearly shown making abhorrent and extreme comments in mainstream Islamic institutions. Many of these speeches were made in DVDs and in internet broadcasts which Channel 4 had no involvement in producing and which our journalists found available in the community.

Undercover Mosque allowed these comments to be seen in their proper context. All the speakers featured in the film were offered the opportunity to respond and their response was reflected in the programme. None of them denied making these comments and none of the individual speakers have to date complained of unfair treatment to Ofcom.

Channel 4 was fully aware of the considerable sensitivities surrounding the subject matter of this; however, I believe there was clearly an important public interest in exposing the unpleasant and even offensive views that were being preached in the name of Islam in some British mosques. This view was shared by the moderate Muslims interviewed in the programme who were appalled by the footage.

Kevin Sutcliffe
Deputy head of news and current affairs, Channel 4, and editor of Dispatches

And an editorial in The Telegraph by Charles Moore clearly arguing that the CPS and WMP are, in fact, off their heads. It contains a quick reminder of the contents of the documentary:

One preacher speaks of a British Muslim soldier killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and says: “The hero is the one who separated his head from his shoulders.” Another says that all Jews will be killed at the end of time, and makes a snorting noise as if imitating a pig.

Shame on Channel 4 for showing this decontextualised snorting:

Channel 4 fights back

Channel 4 has responded robustly to the West Midlands Police and Crown Prosecution service. In last night’s Channel 4 News Krishnan Guru-Murthy investigated the CPS’s claim that Undercover Mosque “completely distorted” what the speakers had said by interviewing one of them – Abu Usamah At-Thahabi.

As the accusations are about misrepresenting the views of those filmed, Guru-Murthy asked Abu Usamah:

Which of these views that ‘women are deficient’, that ‘non-Muslims are pathological liars and terrorists’ and that and that ‘homosexuals are dogs that should be murdered’ do you not believe?

You can marvel at the demented imam’s squirming question-avoidance by downloading the 13-minute report from Channel 4’s website (if you are using Windows XP with IE 5.5 or 6 and WMP 10, that is).

Dispatches commissioning editor Kevin Sutcliffe is also interviewed. He continued to express bafflement at the police complaints, saying that they have presented “no evidence” that the views of the speakers had been distorted, or that Channel 4 deliberately tried to “undermine community relations”. Responding to Guru-Murthy’s observation that his integrity has been impugned by the police accusations, he replied

I will take advice from my legal department.

As Bartholomew notes, this would not be the first time the UK police have responded to a TV documentary with an investigation, only to turn on the documentary-maker:

In 1999 Donal MacIntyre went undercover for a programme about the abuse of adults with learning disabilities in care homes in Kent: when the subsequent police investigation floundered, they accused MacIntyre of wasting police time. MacIntyre sued for libel and won.

Tables turned on C4’s Undercover Mosque

The BBC reports that the Crown Prosecution Service will not press charges against three speakers filmed in the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Undercover Mosque. Instead, the West Midlands Police have complained to Ofcom about the programme itself.

CPS 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 television programme, apparently taking out of context aspects of speeches which in their totality could never provide a realistic prospect of any convictions.

The programme is still available on YouTube.

The investigation initially focused on the speakers, but eventually turned on to the documentary itself. ACC Anil Patani for West Midlands Police said:

As a result of our initial findings, the investigation was then extended to include issues relating to the editing and portrayal of the documentary.

The priority for West Midlands Police has been to investigate the documentary and it’s [sic] making with as much rigour as the extremism the programme sought to portray.

According to the Press Release the West Midlands Police wanted to charge Channel 4 with stirring up racial hatred (which is odd considering Islam is not a race), but were advised by the CPS that this is not possible. So they have filed an official complaint with Ofcom, where details of the alleged distortions will emerge.

MWW will keep you informed.

UPDATE (14:55): Channel 4 has responded:

We believe the offensive views expressed by the people revealed in the programme speak for themselves.

We didn’t put these words into people’s mouths and all extracts were carefully contextualised.

The West Midlands Police have provided no evidence whatsoever to support their allegations.

Life of Mammals censored in Holland

Dutch News reports that an evangelical Christian broadcaster EO has purchased exclusive rights to the BBC’s Life of Mammals and censored out all references to evolution.

The cuts to David Attenborough’s documentary series were apparently made with the BBC’s agreement. If this is true it is, as Bartholomew points out, a gross betrayal of its remit.

EO director Henk Hagoort explains:

We’ve been ‘adapting’ nature films since we started. It’s no secret. We don’t believe that man descends from monkeys.

By controlling exclusive rights in Holland, EO has ensured that the Dutch public will be sheltered from Attenborough’s dangerous evolutionary propaganda.

Comparative clips of the English and Dutch versions can bee seen at Cloggie.

(Hat Tip: The Pagan Prattle)

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, if the EO’s buying of exclusive rights to the show is an attempt to shield the Dutch public, it is an ineffective one. 80% of the Dutch have cable, which includes to BBC1 and 2 as well as the Discovery Channel. Perhaps the rights only cover Dutch language versions?