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Private emotions

Kevin Bakhurst Kevin Bakhurst | 15:58 UK time, Friday, 1 September 2006

The story of why Molly Campbell left Scotland with her father to go to Pakistan has raised a number of difficult issues about the way we have covered it - and led to a number of discussions at our editorial meetings.

BBC News 24 logoInitially, the story seemed pretty clear: a schoolgirl abducted by her father in defiance of a court order. Her emotional mother and grandmother - and the police - asking for her return and some of her family raising the fear of an arranged marriage. This latter line was picked up heavily by many parts of the media. It became apparent the next day that the story was quite different and more complicated than that.

I think we now feel that we probably didn't show enough sophistication in covering the story on the first day. We accepted on face value the words of Molly's mother and her grandmother. However, I don't think in hindsight that we should necessarily have accepted this so readily and we should have tried to find out more about the father and the family as the day went on. I also think that is particularly the case in that some of the suggestions reinforced some stereotypes.
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As more facts came out over the next couple of days, we have strived to be as fair and accurate as we can in reflecting all sides. We carried the press conference by Molly and her father - indicating that it was Molly's wish to go to Pakistan. We have interviewed friends of the father before that to put his point of view. Hopefully we have now given the best all-round picture we can of a complicated and sad story.

One other point that has arisen is the personal nature of some of the comments made at the press conference today by Molly's brother about members of his family. As the story was unfolding, we carried this press conference live on News 24. As sometimes happens, live events can turn up unexpected and unfortunate comments. His words underlined how difficult it is for us to tread the line of reporting stories of wide public interest when they could trespass on private family emotions. It is something we try to avoid as far as is possible - and we won't be repeating the personal comments or re-running those parts of the press conference on News 24.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 12:13 AM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • Graham wrote:

Why do you still inist on calling her Molly despite her request to be known as Misbah?

  • 2.
  • At 06:29 PM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • naheed aziz wrote:

The story of an young alienated girl trying to straddle the fault lines between opposite camps is not a particularly sensitive narrative to replay to the general public if the story is investigated and reported in a balanced and thorough way. But when you throw in the heady mix of race, ethnicity and religoun, accurate and balanced journalism is tested to the full.
I can understand the particlar pressures news teams are under to get a 'story' to the public within strict timescales, but that doesn't mean following a preposession with one version of events after the starting gun was fired . From radio 5 live to News 24, the BBC adopted 'red -top'banner headlines,and although sound coverage in the final stages offered redemption of a sort, it gave a snapshot how far some coverage fell short of the quality threshold.

I think we now feel that we probably didn't show enough sophistication in covering the story on the first day. We accepted on face value the words of Molly's mother and her grandmother. However, I don't think in hindsight that we should necessarily have accepted this so readily and we should have tried to find out more about the father and the family as the day went on.

Seriously, it's 2006, and you're only just realising that you can't just take stories at face value and actually need to do a little journalism from time to time?!

  • 4.
  • At 04:54 PM on 04 Sep 2006,
  • Shiv5468 wrote:

It must be remembered that as a matter of law when someone takes a child out of the country without the consent of the parent with custody it is kidnap, whether the child wanted to go or not.

Whatever the child's wishes, the father could and should have gone through the courts. The fact that he didn't, and is now preoceeding to vilify the mother, is hardly a sign of a responsible father.

  • 5.
  • At 12:06 PM on 05 Sep 2006,
  • WM wrote:

The use of the name "Molly Campbell" in this blog instead of her real name, Misbah Rana just confirms the prejudice with which the press, including the BBC have treated this case. The excuses are invalid - the Asian community, led by the respected Bashir Mann, was very loudly trying to give the true story from day one, but was ignored by the press.

  • 6.
  • At 03:38 PM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • anne wrote:

You are right that some of the reporting reinforced sterotypes. surely any decent right thinking, non prejudiced person knows that not all 12 year old Pakistani girls are forced into a marriage. Maybe some people need to think more about other peoples feelings before reporting

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