London, UK, 1 August 2007 – In a ruling published earlier this month,
the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), found that Newsnight and File
on 4 had misled the public by broadcasting allegations in November 2006
concerning Hizb ut-Tahrir that were not based on evidence.
The ECU noted that both programmes alleged that Hizb ut-Tahrir, or a splinter group of its members, was responsible for planning a fire-bomb attack on a Croydon synagogue, based on information passed on by the shadowy organisation Vigil. The ECU ruled that this "was not a strong enough basis on which to mount such a serious allegation".
In addition, Richard Watson, a reporter for Newsnight, misled listeners when he assured the Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty, that File on 4 had clear evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir "seeks to propagandise on behalf of terrorists and glorify terrorism". No such evidence existed and to this date the Home Office has not received any material from Newsnight, File on 4 or Richard Watson concerning Hizb ut-Tahrir. The ECU ruled that the programme did not cite sufficient evidence to justify these allegations.
Commenting on the ECU ruling, Dr Imran Waheed, media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir, said, "In what has already been a mensis horribilis for the BBC, the ruling of the ECU dents the credibility of the reports on Newsnight and File on 4 which were dominated by smear and innuendo. The allegations presented by Newsnight and File on 4 were serious, but completely lacking in credibility. The BBC has a responsibility to its viewers and listeners to ensure balance and impartiality when relying on shadowy sources that are not open to public scrutiny. The BBC should not be a propaganda outlet for such organisations and their claims should be scrutinised. The BBC is a public broadcaster that must take its responsibilities to rigorously examine issues in an impartial manner seriously."
"It is unfortunate that media outlets are able to rely on shadowy organisations and anonymous uncorroborated sources. Too often they operate on the margins of journalism by straying into the arena of smears and propaganda. It is also important to remember the context of last November's fictitious and slanderous BBC allegations. The timing of the report by File on 4 and Newsnight was closely associated with the desire of the Home Office to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir as Blair visited Musharraf and offered £480m for the 'war on terror'."
Notes to Editors:
The full ECU ruling can be viewed on their website.