Private Eye: Police Complaint over Documentary “a Stunt”

CPS admits to having no details about allegations

Police account differs from that of Ofcom

The latest Private Eye magazine (1191, p. 8) has an article on the decision by West Midlands police to refer the makers of a television documentary to Ofcom, the UK television regulator. As was widely blogged a few days ago, the documentary had uncovered evidence of extreme Islamist sentiments being expressed in (or on videos for sale at) a Birmingham mosque, and the police and Crown Prosecution Service had subsequently investigated. Rather unexpectedly, they announced that the documentary had “distorted” the speakers they had featured in the programme, who were shown expressing views such as this:

…No one loves the kuffaar! Not a single person here from the Muslims loves the kuffaar. Whether those kuffaar are from the UK or from the US. We love the people of Islam and we hate the people of kuffaar. We hate the kuffaar!

Another speaker made joking pig-snorting sounds as he suggested all Jews should be killed.

Now the Eye gives a bit more context to the police complaint:

Had [Assistant Chief Constable Anil] Patani bothered to check the CPS website beforehand he’d have realised that, under the legislation governing Ofcom, complaints about unfairness can only come from “the person affected”…the “formal complaint” looks like a non-starter. It appears to be little more than a publicity stunt.


The Eye asked the West Midlands police why they hadn’t read the rules before lodging the complaint. A spokeswoman told us that they had “liaised” with Ofcom in advance…But this true?

“No,” said an Ofcom spokeswoman… “We certainly didn’t.”

The police also told the Eye that the formal complaint to Ofcom came jointly from themselves and the CPS. Again, this turns out to be untrue. But the confusion is understandable, since Bethan David of the CPS certainly aided and abetted the stunt.

The Eye also asked the CPS for evidence that the sanguinary views of the Islamist speakers had been taken out of context. Reply:

“We don’t go into that level of detail.”

The report ends by noting that the documentary-makers are considering suing for libel. I drew attention to this possibility a few days ago; in 2002 journalist Donal MacIntyre won a libel action against Kent Police in similar circumstances. He received £15,000 damages and reportedly £650,000 in costs.

4 Responses

  1. Media Watch groups and OFCOM in particular are increasingly urged to take note of a flawed approach reflected by Hardcash Production’s documentary “Undercover Mosque” shown on Channel Four in early 2007. The documentary instead of meeting viewers’ expectation to get an objective and even handed reflection of realities plays with their sentiments by brazenly overlooking established media norms.
    Since when settling personal scores is permitted on public screen? Would you expect a balanced documentary on Ireland’s peace progress selectively referring to, say, what Dr. Ian Paisley and the Republican leadership said about one another 20 years back? One must question and even challenge the wisdom of subjectively picking out of context quotes to malign some religious functionaries.

    Hardcash Productions might burn their fingers when stoking somebody else’s fire as the documentary solicits an Iraqi Shia to pass remarks about some Sunni ventures in UK. Can we expect from a responsible channel to allow its airtime for ideologues discrediting each other at viewers’ expense? Why then Dr. Irfan al-Alawi of The Heritage Foundation was allowed to pick and choose excerpts to discredit those with who he differs ideologically.

    One wonders how “Hardcash Productions” got away with such a low-cost load of cheap tricks in its pursuit of “rants-for-ratings”. How could HP be allowed to stir religious sentiments on prime time television? If such a trend is not discouraged, then expect tabloid-headline like tales creeping into realm of institutions of other religions too.

    Many viewers are left disappointed as the documentary miserably fails on five vital criteria namely to: Exercise caution on references to religion, its values and its institutions. Demonstrate even-handed and neutral approach; and, Discourage witch-hunts and ghost chasing attempts. Applied standards uniformly as one sect member discredits another Fails to vet the agenda-driven, politically motivated and selective remarks.

    This documentary miserably fails to disguise its prejudices visible in exploiting schism to settle score with competing ideologies.

  2. I take it that you’re the same Jim Zackey who has defended al-Jazeerah by suggesting that

    One needs to keep a close watch on all attempts to shoot the messanger. In this day and age of civic journalism, let the viewers see and judge for themselves what options they would like to have when itcomes to choosing news channels.

    Seems you’re rather quick to abandon that approach. And the extremists were not discredited by “Dr. Irfan al-Alawi of The Heritage Foundation”. They were discredited by themselves.

  3. […] at first to see if any of those featured the programme had committed any offences. As I blogged at the time, one speaker was shown making joking pig-snorting noises as he suggested all Jews should be killed, […]

  4. […] the Channel 4 documentary Undercover Mosque. As was widely blogged a few weeks ago (and by me here, here, and here), the documentary found extremist speakers and videos at a prominent mainstream mosque. […]

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