BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ report on extremist group ignores its own role

On June 26th BBC Two’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight‘ aired a report by Richard Watson.

“Newsnight’s Richard Watson has been following the extremist group al-Muhajiroun for 16 years. In this film, he reveals how the group became a crucible of home-grown terror, from the 7/7 London bombings to the recent London Bridge attacks.”

The following day an article by Watson on the same topic appeared on the BBC News website’s UK page under the title “Has al-Muhajiroun been underestimated?“.

“One of the London Bridge attackers was a follower of the banned al-Muhajiroun network. But has the UK been guilty of not taking the Islamist group seriously enough?”

That question crops up repeatedly in both the written and filmed reports. [emphasis added]

“In the late 1990s, Bakri Muhammad toured towns and cities with large Muslim populations in a recruitment drive for his new group. He was largely unchallenged by the British state, which had been preoccupied by the threat posed by Irish republican groups.

They dismissed Bakri Muhammad as a fool. In the wider community, few realised how divisive and dangerous his views were.”

“Fast-forward to 2017 and the terror attack at London Bridge had a strong link with al-Muhajiroun. The attack leader Khuram Butt was a supporter of the network, even appearing in a Channel 4 documentary last year called The Jihadis Next Door.

Butt didn’t exactly hide his extremist sympathies, and this raises a huge question for the British state – was the threat posed by radicals linked to al-Muhajiroun underestimated for years?

“”We’ve been far too tolerant of al-Muhajiroun,” says [Col. Richard] Kemp. Their use of abusive language and threats was not tackled, he suggests.

“It was a major failure and we’ve seen the consequences – we’ve seen Lee Rigby [murdered] by a follower of al-Muhajiroun, we’ve seen numerous attacks around the world.”

“By 2004, it was clear that the al-Muhajiroun network had been at the very least a gateway to terror. […]

So why was more not done? This was ideological extremism and the leaders of the network, like Anjem Choudary, were always careful to stay, just, on the right side of the law so they could not be arrested.”

Indeed the al-Muhajiroun network’s extremism has been glaringly apparent for many years and there were those who tried to raise the alarm on that issue.

However, one topic completely absent from both Richard Watson’s reports is that of the UK media’s frequent provision of a stage for the man who was for many years the face of that network in its assorted forms – Anjem Choudary – as the Telegraph reported last year:

“The BBC and other broadcasters have come under fire for regularly offering Anjem Choudary a platform to air his controversial views.

Ignoring warnings about offering the firebrand cleric the “oxygen of publicity” Choudary became a regular on many of the corporation’s flagship news programmes including Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today.

During his trial Choudary described how he would “bait” the media with controversial statements and relished appearing on air.

The court heard how he had hundreds of media contacts who he would tip off before high profile demonstrations and stunts, including 31 journalists from the BBC.”

As was noted here three and a half years ago:

“…the BBC has been wheeling out Choudary and his template propaganda for over a decade, including a ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2003 in which he refused to condemn the Mike’s Place suicide bombers, another ‘Hardtalk’ interview from 2005 in which he likewise refused to condemn the London terror attacks, participation in ‘The Big Questions’ and ‘Newsnight’ and an appearance on ‘Newsnight’ in May 2013 (also promoted on the BBC News website) in which his stance on the brutal murder of Lee Rigby was made amply clear.” 

Especially given that ‘Newsnight‘ was one of Choudary’s regular spots, one would have expected to see in Watson’s reports some acknowledgement – and explanation – of the editorial decisions that lay behind over a decade of facilitation of Choudary’s PR efforts, despite recognition of the fact that his various networks were “a gateway to terror”.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of Choudary conviction ignores his BBC appearances

Anjem Choudary’s BBC appearances ignored in reports on his arrest

BBC interviewee’s group noted in terrorism study

The BBC, ‘democratic principles’ and the Jihadist recruiter 



BBC News inaccurately claims first suicide bombing abroad by a British citizen was in 2014

On June 14th an article appeared on the ‘Leeds & West Yorkshire’ page of the BBC News website under the headline “Dewsbury teenager is ‘UK’s youngest ever suicide bomber’“. The report includes the following insert.

Dewsbury art orig insert

Of course Abdul Waheed Majid was not “the first British man to carry out a suicide bombing” at all. Eleven years before that two British men carried out a terror attack in Tel Aviv.Dewbury art 1 main

“On April 30, 2003, a suicide terrorist blew himself up at the entrance to Mike’s Place, a pub/cafe on the Tel Aviv promenade. Three civilians were murdered, and over 50 were wounded in the attack.

The attack was perpetrated by Asif Muhammad Hanif, 22, a British citizen.

A second British citizen, Omar Khan Sharif, 27, married, a resident of Derby, who was also due to have perpetrated a suicide attack, fled the scene. Khan Sharif attempted to detonate the bomb in his possession but the bomb failed to explode. He fled the scene after discarding the bomb. It cannot be ruled out that he was injured by the explosion of the detonator. During his flight, Khan Sharif struggled with a security guard at the David Intercontinental Hotel as he tried to snatch the latter’s ID. Khan Sharif’s body was positively identified on May 19, 2003, after having washed ashore on the Tel Aviv beachfront on May 12.”

The following day – June 15th – that article was replaced by another one titled “Dewsbury ‘in shock over UK’s youngest suicide bomber’” which appeared at several locations on the BBC News website, including its Middle East page, UK page, England page and Leeds & West Yorkshire page. That article too includes an insert titled “The Britons taking terror overseas”, although its wording has been slightly altered.

Dewsbury art 2 insert modified

Nevertheless, the June 14th article remains available to the public online and hence is in need of correction.