Archives for November 2010

The Chandlers: Censorship in a good cause?

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Rajan Datar | 12:58 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

The release of Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple who spent more than a year kidnapped in Somalia, was a major story – but, as the BBC’s Editor of World News, Jon Williams, explained to me, legal measures had forced the media to keep silent until their release.

Paul and Rachel Chandler were held by Somali pirates for 388 days. Picture: Getty Images

The media - including the BBC - had been prohibited from reporting any developments in the case until the Chandlers had left Somalia.

The couple’s family had gone to court in the UK and asked a judge to grant them what’s called a ‘super-injunction ‘ - a legal measure that’s caused controversy as it has often been used by celebrities to stop newspapers publishing stories about their private lives.

As it’s also illegal even to refer to the existence of a super-injunction, the BBC could not explain to listeners and viewers why they were quiet on the story when others, who did not obey the ban – were not. Was this something that concerned the Editor of BBC World News, Jon Williams?

He explained that while the BBC is not in the business of censoring the news, no story is worth a life – and so the BBC accepted the argument of the family, their lawyers and the judge that to do otherwise would jeopardise the safety of Paul and Rachel Chandler.

What do you think? Was this a case of censorship in a good cause?

Jon Williams also discussed with me the question raised by one of our listeners as to whether the blanket coverage of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in Burma might compromise her security.

Jon explained the difficulties of reporting from Burma, where the BBC is banned, and we also heard about the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from an anonymous journalist from the Democratic Voice of Burma, a non-profit media organization which broadcasts into Burma from Oslo, Norway whose journalists work secretly inside Burma and who would face many years in prison if they were discovered.

Finally, in a week which raised questions about whether some stories should be reported, we heard from one listener who felt that far too many headlines were given to the announcement of the forthcoming royal wedding.

Just because the wedding is big news in Britain – does that mean it’s news for you, wherever you are?

Rajan Datar is the Presenter of Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).

Your reactions to Baghdad Boy

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Rajan Datar | 12:10 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

On Over To You this week, a slight respite from all the gloomy discussions about looming cuts to the World Service. Indeed a welcome reminder of what a jewel the network so often is.
Firstly we look at your reactions to the two-part documentary series, Baghdad Boy, which looks at the life of 19 year-old Ali Abbas who lost both his arms and many members of his family including his father and his pregnant mother in an unexplained American missile attack on the outskirts of the city in 2003.


Ali was relocated to the UK for medical treatment where he still lives with his uncle, but presenter Hugh Sykes followed him over on a return trip to his home city.
It's a moving documentary but among the issues raised by you was the ethics of such a personal portrait - did the questioning become too intrusive? And how typical is Ali of an Iraqi of that age who has suffered in the conflict? We take your points to the programme’s producer Russell Crewe.
We also interview Ken Richards, a producer from the lifeline broadcast project "Connexion Haiti ", which has just won a prestigious international award.

We ask him why the programmes were so successful in co-ordinating relief for victims of the earthquake and providing an interactive link with people on the ground in its aftermath.

Sadly, with a rising cholera epidemic and the recent hurricane, the conclusion was that if anything, the project needs to be resurrected now.
And there's even a backhanded compliment for the output of the World Service this week - with some of you praising the replacement programmes - often repeats - during the recent BBC strike which in particular affected the newsroom.
So if you care about the World Service, then do join me this weekend for Over To You - and then contribute your comments.

You'll become part of an ever-growing movement.... 
Rajan Datar is the Presenter, Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).



Reaching places other broadcasters can't reach

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Rajan Datar | 21:34 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

The World Service prides itself on reaching stories that other broadcaster can't reach - to use an old advertising slogan - but there's a plea from an Afghan listener on this week’s Over To You to pay more attention to the plight of ordinary civilians in his country.

Ghazi Wardak got in touch to relay his family's worries that the media - including the BBC World Service - too often ignores the humanitarian aspects of the conflict in Afghanistan. 

Ghazi comes from a province located to the east of the capital, Kabul, where American troops are currently stationed, but he’s studying in Kent in England.

He challenges the Head of World Service News and Current Affairs, Andrew Whitehead, on the coverage of civilian issues, and an interesting exchange of views ensues. Andrew points out that his correspondents do often seek out the views of the local people but there are inevitably logistical blocks to doing that as often as he would like.

And we on Over To You likewise would greatly appreciate more contact from listeners in less covered regions of the world  - be it in Afghanistan, other conflict zones or indeed Burma which, this weekend, is holding its first elections for 20 years.

We ask the head of BBC Burmese, Tin Htar Swe, about the difficulties of  reporting an event in a country where the BBC is banned from keeping a resident correspondent – and the ways around this problem. 

And finally the story that is obsessing you - and with good reason - is the future good health of the World Service itself. Many of you have emailed this week on whether or not the service should take advertising over the airwaves, following a comment made on last week’s programme.

The majority come out on one side of this debate and you can find out which side that is by listening to the programme... as ever, we look forward to your company this weekend - and of course to receiving your incisive views on anything you've heard on the BBC by email, phone or letter over the coming days. 

Rajan Datar is the Presenter, Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).




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