It is not often that we find ourselves supporting the Christian Legal Centre, but in this case they appear to have a legitimate grievance against BBC and ITV officials. They sent a mailshot to supporters this morning.
Alan Craig is the Christian Choice candidate for Mayor of London. Before the BBC and ITV agreed to air his admittedly stultifying Party Election Broadcast, he was forced to rewrite a section about his opposition to the London “Mega Mosque” because it was deemed “libellous” to the radical Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat.
His original text read:
You may know about plans by a separatist Islamic group to build Europe’s biggest mosque next to the Olympics site in West Ham. I think it’s a bad idea that will bring division and I’m glad moderate Muslims support my stance in opposing it
The BBC didn’t like “separatist”, which it said was libellous, or “moderate”, which implied that TJ was extremist. So “separatist” was changed to “controversial” and “moderate” was removed – only for ITV to intervene, saying that “controversial” should apply to the plans, not the group, and that “some” should be inserted before “Muslim leaders”.
The final text read:
You may know about controversial plans by an Islamic group to build Europe’s biggest mosque next to the Olympics site in West Ham. I think it’s a bad idea that will bring division and I’m glad some Muslims leaders support my stance in opposing it.
Craig is taking the broadcasters to the High Court, claiming “political interference” and breech of his right to freedom of speech under the European Convention of Human Rights.
I am advised that libel is a defamation of an individual, and no-where in the broadcast do we defame individuals. My comments are reasonable and moderate and do not contradict the Racial and Religious Hatred Act. The BBC and ITV are not entitled to limit free speech and I look forward to the judge ordering them both to broadcast my original message.
UPDATE: (28 April) Bartholomew reminds those who need reminding that the Christian Legal Centre is an “unlikely opponent of censorship”, given its history of opposition to the free speech of others when it comes to “blasphemy”.
UPDATE: (29 April) The Times has picked up on the story now, and informs us that the High Court hearing will happen today.
This was a politically correct attempt to close down reasoned discussion and debate. It’s a matter of freedom of speech and democracy.
Which contrasts somewhat with what he had to say about Jerry Springer: The Opera being broadcast on BBC:
Christians do not expect a public service broadcaster funded by the licence-fee to mock Jesus Christ like this. The actions of the BBC show that stronger control is needed and this must be brought in during the Royal Charter renewal process.
So much for freedom of speech and democracy.