30/10/2015 Newswatch


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At quarter to ten we will have The Film Review.


But now on BBC News it's time for Newswatch.


Hello, and welcome to Newswatch, with me, Samira Ahmed.


As it emerges that police seized a Newsnight journalist's laptop


under terrorism laws, is talking to Jihadis a crime?


And should the BBC be broadcasting interviews with them?


We will be discussing the issues around that police seizure shortly,


but first the death on Wednesday of 16-year-old Bailey Gwynne after


he had been stabbed at a school in Aberdeen has featured prominently on


news bulletins over the past couple of days.


The coverage gave rise to an objection of a kind familiar to


regular watchers of this programme, from Iain Pailing:


Well, we put that point to BBC News, and they told us:


Now it is seven weeks since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader


of the Labour Party and, initially, he was barely off of our television


screens, being subjected to intense media scrutiny.


While that hasn't exactly gone away, this week saw complaints that BBC


News had been ignoring him unfairly after he asked this


question of David Cameron six times at Prime Minister's Question Time.


Will he confirm, right now, that tax credit cuts will not make anyone


Well, although that exchange featured on Wednesday's lunchtime


news, it didn't appear on the day's other BBC One bulletins,


The US Grand Prix on Sunday presented BBC News teams with


Highlights of the race were to be shown on BBC One straight after the


late evening news bulletin, so for viewers keen not to find out the


result beforehand the headlines at 10pm avoided giving the game away.


And his eyes or on the prize, but did Lewis Hamilton do enough to


win his third Formula 1 title at the US Grand Prix?


I don't think it's too much of a spoiler now to reveal that,


yes, Lewis Hamilton did win the race, and as a result the Formula 1


championship, but before the sports presenter told viewers that, she did


warn them that if they didn't want to find out they should leave


But the classic 'look away now' alert doesn't really work online,


and scores of viewers complained after seeing the results prominently


announced on the BBC News websites, before the highlights had been


Now on Wednesday one BBC journalist became the story.


For the past couple of years, Secunder Kermani has been reporting


for Newsnight on British born jihadis, interviewing several


Here he is, talking to a friend of Ibrahim Kamara, the 19-year-old


from Brighton, who was part of the Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra,


and is believed to have been killed in a US air strike last year.


Today I spoke to Ibrahim's friend Amer Deghayes, also from Brighton.


He and his younger brother are also fighting in Syria with Jabhat


He came to visit my area and he stayed for a few days, and me


and him were supposed to go back there to visit the brother back


Jabhat al-Nusra, the group Ibrahim was part of,


has been accused by human rights groups of atrocities, but Amer says


On Wednesday it emerged that the police had seized Secunder


Kermani's laptop this summer in order to read communications with


a man in Syria who had publicly identified himself as a member


The move caused some alarm among freedom of speech campaigners,


and Newsnight editor Ian Katz had this to say:


We asked whether someone from the BBC could talk to us about this on


the programme, but they declined, pointing us towards this statement:


There is another concern, too, though,


articulated by Newswatch viewers on several previous occasions,


that interviewing British Jihadis and reporting extensively on them


effectively provides advertising to the organisations they join.


In September Pauline Tweedie objected to coverage of the RAF's


drone attack in Syria, which killed two nationals fighting


And in another programme Paul Callus had this to say about coverage


Well, I'm joined now from our Tunbridge Wells studio


by Tim Luckhurst, who, having worked in newspapers and here at the


BBC, is now professor of journalism at the University of Kent.


Tim, on this particular seizure of the laptop and so on,


Well, I think this is an example of the police using a very blunt


instrument, the Terrorism Act 2000, to seize journalism's source


material, and I think that that sets a really alarming precedent.


The Terrorism Act allows journalists no opportunity to defend themselves


I don't think you defend liberal democracy


Let's face it - the way to silence obnoxious


opinions is not to prevent them from being heard, but rather to allow


them into the public domain and then to oppose them, to object to them


We have a long history in this country,


not simply of understanding that, but of trying the alternative and


It was Margaret Thatcher, after all, who wanted to deny the IRA


the oxygen of publicity by not allowing their voices to be


broadcast on BBC or indeed any other broadcast outlet.


It didn't work and her decision to stop their voices being


It is interesting, Tim, that you say that, because I think some viewers,


like the e-mails we've just heard there, feel this is different to the


IRA - that a lot of the problem with Jihadis is that it is individuals


going off and, you know, interviews with their families


and their friends, where they're perhaps not being challenged as much


as they should be, is essentially glamorising them and feeding a real


problem that could come back when these people come back home.


Where better to challenge them than on television, on radio, in


Surely the way we challenge these offensive opinions, these obnoxious


causes, is by hearing the nonsense their supporters


sprout, contesting it and deploring it, and revealing how absurd it is.


Even just that little clip we played there, when a guy is talking


about the brothers and, no, he wasn't doing anything, in some cases


there is a complete denial they are even involved in terrorism, and the


concern that some of these interviews being broadcast or not


challenging them, they are just giving them the oxygen of publicity?


Well, if an interviewer does not challenge obnoxious opinion, that is


a failure of the interviewer, but I don't think in this case we


What we are talking about instead is something


which is increasingly common in the United Kingdom and increasingly


alarming, and that is the use of legislation which was not designed


to be used against journalists to silence freedom of speech.


I suppose people would say, they aren't stopping this reporter,


any reporter, by a seizure, from reporting their story,


but they might be trying to prevent a potential attack?


I don't think there is any suggestion whatsoever that they are


trying to prevent an attack in this case,


and nobody at the BBC or anywhere else would object to the use of


the Terrorism Act to prevent an attack, or to attempt to prevent an


attack. That is of course the legitimate duty of


the police and something for which we should be very grateful to them.


In this case It was the use of the terrorism act to obtain information


about a source who has publicly identified himself as a supporter of


a terrorist organisation, whose name was already in the public domain.


There was no secrecy about what Newsnight were doing and I believe


that when the force of the Terrorism Act is used to obtain material from


journalists in circumstances like this, one of the clear intentions is


to deter journalists from investigating and talking to


So you have no reservations whatsoever about the idea


of interviewing Jihadists and putting their views on air?


I have no concerns about acting within the law.


We have appropriate laws against hate speech, we have appropriate


That does not mean that we shouldn't seek to understand the views


of people who have some sympathy with those who are promoting those


I have no sympathy whatsoever for terrorist organisations.


I am appalled by their activities, but I simply do not believe that we


encourage opposition to them by forcing them underground,


and I think that by doing so we may achieve the opposite


Thank you for all your comments this week.


If you want to share your opinions on BBC News


and current affairs or even appear on the programme, you can call us.


You can find us on Twitter, and do have a look at our website -


We will be back to hear your thoughts about BBC News


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