Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Police action over TV film 'undermined free speech'

by Adam Sherwin from The Times (UK)

West Midlands Police rejected calls to take action against the preachers for stirring up racial hatred. Instead, they pursued a complaint against the film-makers of Channel 4 "Undercover Mosque", accusing them of undermining community relations. But Ofcom, the media watchdog, threw out the police complaints. It found that the programme had “accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context”. Ofcom said: “Undercover Mosque was a legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest. Ofcom found no evidence that the broadcaster had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity.” Ofcom rejected all 364 complaints received from viewers, saying that they appeared to be part of a campaign. A complaint from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that the programme treated it unfairly was also rejected. Don Foster, media spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “This whole case raises serious questions about West Midlands Police and the CPS in what appears to be an attempt to censor television, stifle investigative journalism and inhibit open debate.”