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26th April
2008
  

Party Politically Correct...

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BBC and ITV censor Alan Craig's party political broadcast

BBC logo A London mayoral candidate is taking the BBC and ITV to the High Court for censoring his party Election Broadcasts in the run up to the May 1 elections.

The Christian Choice candidate, Alan Craig, has instructed the Christian Legal Centre to file papers this morning at the Royal Courts of Justice after BBC and ITV officials instructed him to remove parts of his Party Election Broadcast which was aired on Wednesday evening.

Cllr Craig, a long-standing campaigner against the 'mega-mosque', due to be built in Newham close to the site of the Olympic Games, originally described the organisation behind it, Tablighi Jamaat, as 'separatist'.

However, BBC and ITV officials responsible for supervising the Broadcasts instructed him to moderate his views and change this description of the Islamic organisation if he wanted it aired.

Cllr Craig claims not only 'political interference' by the broadcasters, but says such action breeches his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of speech.

According to the Christian Legal Centre, Cllr Craig changed the word to “controversial” under duress. Late in the day ITV insisted that the agreed word “controversial” should be applied to the mosque plans not to the Islamic group. Cllr Craig's objections to the mega-mosque, however, have consistently been related to the nature of the Islamic group behind the project - the plans have not yet been published.

Cllr Craig said: BBC and ITV officials, none of whom were lawyers to our knowledge, clearly instructed us to 'tone down' our views and change the sense if we wanted the PEB broadcast. The legal language of 'libel' was mentioned by the BBC, and in the case of TV, we were forced to go back to the studios at the last minute to record a censored version of the PEB.

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.


Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: Providing that the content of an election broadcast is within the law, the BBC and ITV should enable the electorate to hear the unedited views of candidates and allow them to make up their own minds as to whether they agree or not.

The Christian Legal Centre will be calling for a Judicial Review of the BBC's and ITV's decision, and ask the judge to order, as a matter of urgency, the unedited Party Election Broadcast on both channels. The case will be heard next Monday when Cllr Craig will be represented by leading Human Rights barrister, Paul Diamond.

Update: The Censored Word

29th April 2008

Original version:

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.

Censored version:

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.

 

1st May
2008
  

Update: Too Late...

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Alan Craig loses censorship case against BBC and ITV

BBC logoA Christian party has lost a High Court bid to have its party election broadcast (PEB) repeated, after claims it was censored by the BBC and ITV.

Christian Choice said the BBC forced changes to its description of a Muslim group in a PEB aired in London.

The BBC said it expressed concern and Christian Choice responded by agreeing to change the form of words.

The judge said the request had been left "far too late" - although he did not think the PEB had been libellous.

Alan Craig, the party's candidate for London mayor, had argued the action breached his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights - which guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

Rejecting Craig's request for a judicial review, the judge, Mr Justice Collins, said he should have launched the legal challenge before the broadcast took place on 23 April. He said it was "perfectly permissible" for the BBC to take into account legal advice that the original broadcast might have been libellous - although he did not think it would have been.

But the judge said the BBC had indicated that if a legal challenge had been issued before the broadcast it would have backed down and let them publish as they wished.

Unfortunately that was not done, Mr Justice Collins added. He ordered Mr Craig to pay the BBC's £11,875 in legal costs.

Original version:

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.

Censored version:

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.