Socialist Worker

Bush and Blair Broadcasting Corporation

Issue No. 1841

THERE IS growing evidence that the BBC is slanting its key news programmes to minimise anti-war views. The BBC has ordered employees to censor 'extremist' anti-war people from phone-ins and live debates.

An e-mail has been circulated which states, 'We are attracting the more extreme anti-war views. There is no question there's a majority against unilateral US action. However, those motivated to call in or e-mail are, to my view, frequently the more extreme end (the 'let's have regime change in Washington, London and Israel' variety). We may sometimes unwittingly be nobbled by anti-war campaigners.'

So by 'extremist' the BBC means people who oppose war with or without UN backing. On Radio 4's Today programme and BBC2's Newsnight the BBC assumes that this anti-war sentiment is on the sidelines. Instead it presents Liberal politicians, who are for a war with UN backing, as if they represented the anti-war movement. On BBC1's Question Time the BBC picks panels composed of a majority of pro-war speakers.

Andrew Bergin, the press officer for the Stop the War Coalition, told Socialist Worker: 'Representatives of the coalition have been invited to appear on every TV channel except the BBC. The BBC have taken a conscious decision to actively exclude Stop the War Coalition people from their programmes, even though everyone knows we are central to organising the massive anti-war movement.'

Meanwhile the BBC has sacked two journalists from its prestigious Arabic Service. Adli Hawwari is Palestinian and Abdul Hadi Said is Iraqi. They both oppose war on Iraq. The BBC dismissed the two with no warning and marched them out of the building escorted by security guards.

The manager involved in the sackings was sent a copy of the e-mail about the war coverage. The workers' NUJ union sees the sackings as clearly linked to the BBC's pro-war stance.

The deputy secretary of the journalists' NUJ union, Peter Fray, said, 'Is it a coincidence that two Arabic Service journalists are sacked when a war over Iraq is on the horizon?'

Adli Hawwari told Socialist Worker, 'Managers issued press releases about our dismissal. They sent e-mails to around 2,000 staff. But we are not on a level with Greg Dyke - we are only producers. Why did they make such a noise about us? I am clear that BBC managers want our dismissal to send a message to people in the World Service to keep their heads down - it is a message of fear.'

The BBC claims they sacked the pair for taking too many 'trivial' cases to industrial tribunals. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear is outraged by the way the BBC has treated the workers.

'The BBC has blatantly flouted all its own procedures, ignored its agreements with the unions, and denied natural justice in this case. These were two senior and seasoned journalists who have never had any complaints about their work. 'Their only crime has been to resist the discrimination and humiliation suffered by many journalists in the World Service.' Both men say their lives were made miserable by BBC bosses.

Abdul Hadi told Socialist Worker, 'I have complained about racial discrimination and victimisation because of my Iraqi origins. I am the only Iraqi in broadcasting in the Arabic Service. For five years I lived in fear because of a few managers at the Arabic Service. The BBC did nothing to protect my safety at work. I have never been disciplined during my career at the BBC. I have never been investigated for my professional competence or conduct. They dismissed me for political reasons. It is political because they don't want anyone from my origins doing current affairs. What has happened to me is part of their attitude to the war on Iraq, and getting rid off the anti-war side. It is a pre-emptive strike against us.'

The NUJ chapel, the workplace union branch, at the Arabic Service passed a resolution demanding the reinstatement of the two sacked journalists. Jeremy Dear is also adamant that Abdul and Adli did nothing to warrant their dismissal.

'Adli and Abdul Hadi are only two of 27-more than half the staff of the Arabic sector - to have brought formal tribunal complaints. They have our complete support. This is total victimisation.'


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Sat 8 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1841
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