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Readers may be familiar with the name of Alan Craig, the Christian Peoples Alliance councillor in Newham, who has been leading the opposition to the creation of the East London mega mosque. He is also standing for the Christian Choice in Thursday’s London mayoral election. Last Wednesday, the Christian Choice released their election broadcast for the mayoral and London Assembly elections. The broadcast, which can be seen here, contains a brief mention of the mega mosque, and refers to Alan Craig’s opposition to it.

However, Mr Craig today launched legal action against the BBC and ITV, claiming that they had forced him to edit the broadcast to remove criticisms of Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic organisation behind the building of the mega mosque. In the first version of his broadcast, Mr Craig described the group as "separatist". This term proved unacceptable to the broadcasters, who ordered him to substitute the word "controversial", which he did, under protest. Subsequently, however, ITV decided that even this mild description was intolerable, and insisted that the appellation be applied only to the mega mosque, and not to the group building it. Ironically, Mr Craig was even prevented from using the hackneyed phrase "moderate Muslims", in reference to those Muslims who have opposed the mega mosque, because it was felt that this could imply that Tablighi Jamaat was not "moderate". The fact that all the evidence suggests that the group is both separatist and extremist, and that it is, in consequence, undeniably controversial, did not deter the BBC and ITV from censoring anything that could remotely resemble a criticism of the organisation.

But even if one does not agree with Mr Craig’s views on Tablighi Jamaat, it is still unreasonable to censor his broadcast. As Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, put it "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". In censoring the Christian Choice election broadcast, the BBC and ITV have restricted the ability of a candidate to put his views to the public, have prevented the public from developing the fullest possible knowledge of a candidate, and have thus sought to undermine democracy.

Hat-tip: English Rose

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3 thoughts on “Censoring election broadcasts

  1. I agree that there should be the maximum possible freedom allowed to political broadcasts, but as long as broadcasting companies are not immune from Libel laws , then I guess they will always be overcautious, although I also suspect more than a tad of politcal correctness at work here.

  2. I have a slight problem with the "Christian People’s Alliance". I know it in my head, but I cannot quite articulate it right now. I’ll sleep on it and maybe tomorrow I’ll be better able to put it into words.

  3. Colm:

    It’s my understanding that, under English law, it’s virtually impossible to libel a group of people, and particularly a comparatively large group like Tablighi Jamaat – you can only be found to have done it if individual members of the group have been personally affected by your claims. Besides which, several newspapers (notably the Times) have repeated criticisms of Tablighi Jamaat similar to those made by Alan Craig, so unless the BBC and ITV both have particularly cautious lawyers, then I wouldn’t have thought they felt any real fear of libel action (I’m not sure that describing someone as "controversial" could be construed as libellous in any event).

    I think this has very little to do with fears of legal action, and everything to do with political correctness.

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