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Frank exchange

Peter Barron | 15:25 UK time, Monday, 2 June 2008

You may remember a row which developed in December last year between Newsnight and the influential centre-right think tank Policy Exchange following an investigation we did into their report called The Hijacking of British Islam (watch it here.)

Newsnight logoWe alleged that some of the receipts used to support their claim that extremist literature was widely available in British mosques had been fabricated. At that time Policy Exchange's chairman Charles Moore made an extraordinary attack upon us, but accepted the charges were serious and added: "It should be said at once that they need proper investigation."

So, six months on we thought it was time to go back and check if that proper investigation had been carried out. You can read Richard Watson's account of what happened next here.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well done BBC.

    Your work outstanding and I find it crazy that anyone would suggest anything other than this.

    Well Done.

    May you continue to inform, educate and entertain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Certainly sounds very fishy.

    The usual principle is that if an organisation refuses to respond publicly to credible allegations then eventually people will be entitled to draw their own conclusions.

    By the way, when is the BBC going to publish the Balen report?

  • Comment number 3.

    Didn't censor that one did you.

    Maybe this one then she mentioned it in one of her last interviews

    You are making a song and dance about a bookshop and reciepts and such like it is the most important thing in the world.

    A tiny wee story amongst a sea of scandelous lies. if you were truely interested in trying to expose the victimisation of Muslims in this country you could have maybe reported benizar bhuttos mentioning that osama bin laden had been murdered.

    Whether this is true or not she mentioned it in one of her last interviews. that was on al-jezera with david frost, you did show the interview on the bbc , it's just that you managed to omit the part where she mentioned the death of old osama.

    Now i am sure the edit was for timekeeping purposes, and maybe she offered no proof of his death but i am sure this would have been of great importance to the debate about the treatment of muslims in the Uk.

    After all it is because of Osamas alleged actions that we find ourselves in this state.

    Again if your news organisation had any real intent on having an open debate about this issue, you would have reported that on amazing rediscovered bus footage from 7/7. For 3 years we have been told the cameras on the bus were not working and there is no footage from on the No. 30 bus.

    yet cctv footage from the No.30 appears on your website all of a sudden.

    no explanation given.

    So I am not going to click here to find out what happens next, instead i am going to take one step closer to leaving this sorry country behind and spend a few more minutes trying to work out what on earth you people actually are doing over there at the BBC.

  • Comment number 4.

    It's nice to see the BBC being so investigative, but it's what I would normall expect of Channel 4 News. The BBC, sadly, very rarely questions the press releases and reports it is handed and has a tendency in the majority of cases to simply republish and pretent they did some work.

    See the entire Science, Technology and computer sections of the corporations output. All of it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Let's not try to brush aside the question of receipts as being "trivial".

    The simple fact of the matter is that those receipts were introduced as evidence, and they rightfully were called into question.

    Note, it was Policy Exchange that introduced the receipts to begin with.

    So they become important, because if the underlying report had enough validity, why the need to counterfeit receipts to begin with? If the other evidence can stand on its own, there would be no need to create such "trivial" evidences.

    If Policy Exchange "needed" to counterfeit receipts to back up its assertions, then it stands to reason that their integrity across the board must be suspect as well - if the receipts are so trivial, yet a "think tank" felt it had to fake something that "trivial", then what else, more substantive, would they also be willing to counterfeit in order to serve their own agenda?

    Indeed, what exactly is their agenda, if they feel they need to counterfeit evidence this "trivial" to add weight to their argument?

    The BBC was not only right to highlight the issues surrounding the falsified evidence Policy Exchange submitted as part of their report, but also to question the integrity of the report itself as a whole.

    THIS is what the license fee pays for.

    And, let's be honest here. if the BBC had, as Policy Exchange demanded, simply reported the article without noting the forgery of evidence supporting the report, then the BBC would too be on the hook for libel, as well as being slammed for failing to perform due diligence in fact checking - the costs of which legal action would have come out of the license fees, and people would be up in arms about.

    The follow-up linked above definitely seems to indicate Policy Exchange is wriggling desparately to avoid any real investigation into the matter, with potentially spurious excuses being given as to why they're not able to "investigate".

    So I'm curious - given the number of people who claim Iraq and the WMD claims were a falsehood promulgated to legitimize invading Iraq (a very real possibility), and how "someone" should have investigated the claims beforehand and how "someone" is at fault for failing to do so, why should anyone *now* turn around and say that the real possibility of yet another shadow agenda be perpetuated through shoddy reporting and ignoring the forgery of supporting evidence that furthers that agenda?

    People should really make their minds up just what standards they expect the media to abide by. Either you want them to allow forged evidence be promoted, or you want them to do their jobs.

    Or does it only count when the falsehoods support people's prejudices?

  • Comment number 6.

    Is it possible to have an answer as to why the BBC omitted Benizar Bhutto talking about the death of Osama Bin laden.

    I would like an answer and its no like this is a massive amount of info you have to collect. Surely you just call the editor of the piece and ask why it was cut out.

    Please explain or at very least explain why you are not telling us.

  • Comment number 7.

    Putting my 800lb gorilla in the room tag back on for a moment, a wild stab in the dark guess might be: This entry has bugger all to do with it?

    A different wild stab in the dark guess might be that the question is pointless and the BBC really doesn't feel like being browbeaten into playing someone else's game, especially if, as I would, they believe that no matter what answer they gave, it wouldn't be believed.

    Unless, of course, there's some particular reason you have for constantly promoting a "The BBC is involved in coverup" agenda as many times as possible - one might wonder who signs your own paychecks.

    Oh wait - that would be a conspiracy theory too ... Funny how that works, innit? :)

  • Comment number 8.


    could you provide the answer then, if this is nothing to worry about and all above board.

    The source of my income should have no baring to the question, all I am asking for clarification of a decision to omit what i think is an important detail.

    Now i will take the critisism that i have a massive, and at times wrong, mistrust of the message the BBC broadcasts,but how can you expect me to when the manipulation of the truth is so obvious.

    You are aware of the Bhutto interview i am presuming.

    My only reason for pushing the agenda that the BBC involves itself in cover-ups is because it is my genuine belief, and its not just them either, news international is much worse.

    I would put forward the bhutto interview as clear evidence of gross manipulation, that has a massive baring on the debate we have about muslims in the U.K.

    If i may quote your argument on the policy exchange .

    "why the need to counterfeit receipts to begin with? If the other evidence can stand on its own, there would be no need to create such "trivial" evidences.

    Indeed, what exactly is their agenda, if they feel they need to counterfeit evidence this "trivial" to add weight to their argument?"

    Now if i transfer this argument from "counterfeit receipts" to "edited bhutto interview", you make my point for me.

    Why the need to do this.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm not part of the BBC, don't work for them, and certainly am not the editor of the piece in question, so any answer I give is as much speculation as it gets.

    Why an editor decides to cut a piece can range from "the camera looked weird" to "there's no substantiation" - especially bearing in mind that Bhutto was a politician, and speaking to *her* domestic audience's interests, and therefore it's entirely possible that things were cut because they were self-serving contextually useless bits.

    But, on the flip side:

    Just why do you think *you* get to "demand" any clarification of anything?

    Please, don't trot out the hideously misleading "we pay the license fee" response, either. You also pay your taxes for refuse collection, but are quite happily all paying extra for it, after the garbage stinks up your house for a fortnight, and get charged extra for recycling that you're forced to separate yourselves - if you can't be bothered to demand anything on something *that* stinky, you give up any credence on being able to use "We pay for it" here.

    Oddly, I don't make your point for you - cutting out a piece of an interview isn't nearly in the same league as counterfeiting evidence that is used to support a fundamentalist agenda.

    Now, if the editors had somehow *created* such a question/answer/statement scenario in Adobe, then maybe there'd be a comparison.

    But they didn't.

    So there isn't.


    And the final point is: Editing an interview with Bhutto has nothing to do with faked receipts - so why did you bring it up here? And the Crime post too?

    Asking you who signs your paychecks is a perfectly valid question, given no blog systems have a disclosure system for those who *comment* - Given your posting history, why would you find it strange someone might wonder if you're being paid to keep up the conspiracy theories bashing the BBC, so keeping in people's minds the "question mark" over its integrity, which serves to help keep it from being embarrassing to The Powers That Be, or stops people from actually thinking about those glaring inconsistencies, like faked receipts, in the reporting of other people's reporting to an agenda?

    If you're going to continually hijack unrelated threads, it's only logical that someone might wonder just what your real motives are. "Repositioning the issue" is a well known obfuscation method.

    Assuming the BBC condescended to give you an answer to your totally off topic question, you won't accept it, I fear, since it's unlikely to be the answer you've already arrived at without a shred of evidence.

    That's the downside to conspiracy theorists, really. By definition, they already have no trust in the "official" line, and have come to their own conclusions. Any answer or information that doesn't meet their conclusion *has* to be part of the conspiracy too.

    So to bring this (marginally) on topic, rather than argue over why an editor edited something, why aren't you questioning Policy Exchange on why the receipts were forged, why they've stalled their internal investigation, and why they're being less than forthcoming about their motives for employing pseudo-official FUD to try to keep people scared?

    That's a much more insidious conspiracy than the ones the BBC gets accused of ... I do have to wonder why the conspiracy you believe the BBC engages in is far more important to you than the possibility of an influential fundamentalist think tank's FUD campaign to foment civil discord and mistrust.

    Last time I checked, the BBC's reporting wasn't used to justify going to war. The Policy Exchange's report quite likely adds support for one. So how about you comment on *that* instead?

  • Comment number 10.

    Thats a lot of words Moonwolfe, but none of it answers the question, or helps me understand the decision.

    The reason i bring it up here is purely so that it is on public record that they were asked and if they had blogs that covered these issues I would rather ask there too.

    This was my best chance in ages, it was almost related at best I know, but for the last month or so it has been about rebranding, awards and new websites, so i apologise if my broadening the topic has offended

    I well know the country we live in is free enough to ask questions but not enough to get an answers.

    So I don't demand an answer, I wouldn't dream that anyone would actually condescend to such a level, but please let me enjoy what little freedoms we have left, let me ask the question at least.

    It is meant to be the sign of a healthy Democracy.

    If you want a real laugh moonwolfe, I used to work as an editor in the media industry, so the BBC has actually paid my rent many a month. As i say, the paychecks don't matter all that really matters, really, should be the truth.

    I don't question the policy exchange because clearly thats one area where the bbc really want to do there job, just like when they went to town on premiership managers, my issue is there are much better targets, who have done much worse, probably like you FUD campaign people.

    Also, I am not suggesting there is a conspiracy, now, if they say she never said this, that would be different.

    Oh, and my comment on *that* is that we actually lost the BBC at the Hutton Inquiry.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well done, BBC. That's what journalists should do: if something looks fishy, you investigate and keep on investigating until you get to the truth.

    It's nice to see that in the sea of dumbing down that's swamping most of the BBC, there are still some islands of quality left.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Interestingly, your interpretation of the forensic results are incorrect.. This may not lead to many different conclusions individually, but it is interesting.
    The ESDA test shoes impressions of writing from preceeding pages, not what the page was resting on.. It shows indentations from hand written notes from the pages above. You say that it proves that the page it was resting on was from another mosque 40 miles away, it doesn't it shows that a page from a mosque 40 miles away was resting on it. Not really sure that makes much difference to the story, but when you are quoting facts, make sure they are correct.

    And anyway, is it not conceiveable that one person is selling books in more than one mosque? I know this happens in christian churches, the booksellers travel.

    Given that the two receipts were dated 9 months apart, perhaps it might be unsurprising that the same hand wrote both receipts, it proves nothing other than the same book seller was now working in a different mosque 10 miles away.

    I think the evidence of a cover up here is flimsy, you've missed the obvious thing about human nature.. When you have something to sell, you go where people want to buy.

    However, what is concerning here isn't whether the books were being sold by the mosques, or by private individuals supposedly representing the mosques, the worrying things is that these books are available at all..

    If Policy Exchange are able to produce the books they bought, then rather than writing them off as a bunch of liars, perhaps newsnight should investigate who exactly it was who sold these books to Policy Exchange.. i'm sure the police would be interested.

  • Comment number 16.

    About the frank exchanged: it was fair and accurate and very discussed...



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