BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Hearing both sides

Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 11:50 UK time, Wednesday, 12 July 2006

The defence secretary has raised concerns about a BBC interview with a Taleban commander that the Six O'Clock and Ten O'Clock news ran on Monday evening (watch it here).

An image from the controversial interviewDes Browne MP has said that broadcasting the Taleban's claims about the nature of the British deployment could cause confusion and might put British troops at risk. BBC News obviously takes the defence secretary's views seriously and we have had extensive debate within the newsroom about the use of video giving the Taleban's views. However we have come to the conclusion that it is an important part of our role to reflect the claims of the Taleban as well as, of course, reporting the views of British ministers, soldiers and officers.

There is a lively debate within the UK about how clear the British mission is. The fact that the Taleban hold the view that the British are there to fight war rather than to reconstruct the country is hardly surprising. For the BBC to report what the Taleban is saying is not the same as the BBC concurring with the Taleban view.

In any significant conflict involving British forces there are often members of the public and the British government who express concerns about the BBC reporting the views of the "enemy". However the BBC's duty of impartiality is especially strong in such conflicts, particularly when there is domestic controversy.

We need to be careful in explaining how interviews or statements with the Taleban are obtained and provide clear explanation to our audiences for why we are reporting those views, but it is entirely legitimate to broadcast such material and we will continue to do so. The BBC believes its impartial reporting of the facts and the views on both sides does not put British troops at risk.


  • 1.
  • At 01:09 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • mike james wrote:

So what next, an interview with Bin Laden???, the Beeb has become so politically correct, that its unbelievable!!!.

This sort of interview is a total betrayal of our forces in afghanistan, but I am not really surprised, far from being "impartial", the beeb regularly devotes a lot of space to the "sufferings" of the palestinians, while constant rocket attacks on israel merit just a few paragraphs!!!.

May I remind you that that the bbc is funded by BRITISH people, and I object VERY strongly to any part of my licence fee being used to provide a platform for murderous religious fanatics!!.

I suppose that we should be grateful that the Beeb didn't take the same attitude to Adolph Hitler!!.

  • 2.
  • At 01:25 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • David R. Williams wrote:

The BBC did the right thing - we don't have to believe those interviewed but it would be nice to know why we are trying to kill Teleban members. Surely we could stop buying their exports if we do not approve of their behaviour in their own country.

The BBC were right to show an interview with a Taleban spokesman. It is always important to hear from the other side in any situation, what ever the background.

Nothing said in the interview would put the troops in any more danger than they are already in, being in a hostile environment.

  • 4.
  • At 02:13 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

We should certainly hear both sides of every story. Even if we certainly cannot agree with the other side, its important that people aren't hidden from the realities of situations, especially wars.

  • 5.
  • At 02:22 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

Obviously the BBC shouldn't be providing a platform for the Taliban, or anyone else. That doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile hearing what they have to say. Surely its better not to have a "faceless" enemy. I'd personally be interested to see an interview with Bin Laden, that doesn't mean I consider him or anything he supports remotely right or justified, just that seeing both sides is important. We can't just let the government say "these people are bad" and trust their word on it because the media won't cover their side - can we?

  • 6.
  • At 02:24 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

The question is not whom BBC interviews but the way the interviews are conducted. BBC's own political biases and the degree of bias are clearly evident in the questions asked, they way they are asked, and their followup. For interviewees with whom BBC is sympathetic, they are given an unrestricted platform to voice their views. Even the most extreme of them can go unchallenged and if asked a cutting question which receives no relevant response, BBC just lets it go. To those BBC is antithetical to, there is confrontation from the outset and it never lets up. It's far more subtle and effective than the propaganda of the old Radio Moscow but it's not journalism in any neutral sense.

  • 7.
  • At 02:34 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Tony wrote:

This Government seems to have a problem with the BBC reporting the truth.

  • 8.
  • At 02:53 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Simon Ward wrote:

The BBC needs to learn the difference between impartiality and objectivity. It is impartial when given the choice between Good and Evil? Why? Anything other than an utter rejection of evil is outrageous.
Would you be equally imaprtial when given the choice of food and poison? And let's not hear "Oh but Good and Evil are subjective". No they are not. They are clearly identifiable. We are talking about a group of people who once tyranically ruled a country, who stoned women to death, refused educate girls, banned books and arts. They are fighting against another group (the US led coalition) which is trying to bring democracy, education, free thinking and enterprise to the country. labelling something as Evil, when it is Evil, is the very definition of objectivity.

Incidentally, if current BBC coverage existed 65 years ago, the organisation would have been abolished for supporting the enemy. As it should be now unless it improves it output, learns lessons and stops biting the hand which feeds it.

  • 9.
  • At 02:56 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Thomas Wills wrote:

The real scandal is that the BBC does not turn to a more credible source than the Taleban for an opposing view - an anti-war group, for example. Reporting the views of British ministers on one side and the Taleban on the other is not balanced, it's a false dichotomy.

  • 10.
  • At 03:24 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

Reporting both sides is the essence of good journalism and crucial to us understanding what the conflict is about. Otherwise we risk demonising the "enemy" as barbaric animals and we all know what that leads to.

Mike James wrote "So what next, an interview with Bin Laden???"

Be honest Mike, if that was on the 10 oclock news you'd watch it! If it offends you then I'm sure there are other stations running nice friendly patriotic pieces on "our boys in the field".

  • 11.
  • At 03:52 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Brian wrote:

Some people here (eg Simon Ward, number 8) don't seem to realise that we're adults and expect our news provider of choice to give us all the information we need to make our minds up. I don't want the BBC to filter the news by deciding for me that the Taliban are evil. I'll make my own mind up thanks. I don't want Fox News thanks.

  • 12.
  • At 04:18 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • tony levy wrote:

I agree that open reporting should be allowed but it is the way it is done. Our troops need as much support as possible and in a way the showing of a Taliban interview gives credence to what they are doing.
I suppose in the long run we are in a form of a war and sometimes good sense needs to prevail.

  • 13.
  • At 04:26 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Gill Walters wrote:

Typical! the Beeb yet again giving a voice to the terrorists and not the ordinary people they are constantly terrorising. You seem to be more interested in those who like committing murder in the name of Allah than those suffering and those trying to stop it.

11: If you want to make up your own mind I suggest you start by learning the history of the region at university level including learning the necessary languages and then go out there and do a research degree. Then you might have some almost sufficient information to form your own view.

Until then we are to rely on the experts in the media who are supposed to have gone through the above educational process, so we viewers can trust their judgement.

  • 15.
  • At 04:32 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

The BBC are willing to interview taliban fighters, who hate Westerners and want to kill us all, but they can't show anti muslim cartoons.

Sounds like a bit of a 2 tier system if you ask me.

I bet you wouldn't allow BNP members to broadcast their ideals!

  • 16.
  • At 04:45 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

Giving airtime to men who murdered tennagers for daring to listen to music, who stoned young women to death for daring to educate themselves, who destryoed a world heritage site becuase it offended their Prophet, who gave succour & shelter to Osama Bin Laden & Al Qaeda to plot 9/11 & other atrocities, should not, in my TV taxpaying humble opinion be given the credibility afforded to them by appearing on the BBC. Their insidious & inspidid world view is anti humanity, & I think everyone knows their opinions & propaganda very well by now.

  • 17.
  • At 04:46 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • M wrote:

Some of the arguments here are related to another BBC blog discussion about linking to BNP sites:

  • 18.
  • At 04:57 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • gary howells wrote:

Free speech is the cornerstone of our society. Allowance religious fundamentalists such as Taliban a voice will allow more people to see how idiotic these people are.

We live in a very dangerous time when religious fanatics in America & the Muslim world threaten our World. We must use every opportunity to show them up for what they are - facists.

  • 19.
  • At 05:03 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • David Smith wrote:

It's good to hear from Peter Horrocks that there has been an internal debate regarding the BBC's role in reporting on a war and the impact (if any) on the ability of British troops to sucessfully carry out their mission.

It's a very difficult issue to grapple. The 'How would the BBC have dealt with Hitler?' question is an interesting one. I don't have a problem with the BBC interviewing Bin Laden, but as one commentator above said, the way that the interview is handled is important. Views need to be robustly challenged on both sides and the BBC has to be aware of not awarding 'moral equivalence' to both sides.

Propaganda is another issue to be considered. Undoubtedly the Taliban are dangerous (to the UK) and highly skilled in energising those who may be succeptible to their rhetoric. Could the BBC be helping the Taliban by giving them airtime?

There probably is a line of offence when the majority of the British public will tell the BBC to stop. An example of this was when the BBC did, then didn't use the word 'Terrorist' to describe those who planted bombs that killed innocent civilians in London on 7/7. The BBC line was that the word 'Terrorist' was a value judgement and that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. This was one moral equivalence too far, and the BBC backed down (for now). Which brings us to the Good Vs Evil thoughts of my fellow poster above.

These are big questions and I'm glad to hear that the BBC editorial teams are discussing them.

  • 20.
  • At 05:04 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

15: Well, I think that's down to the erosion of free-speech. I don't agree with with anti-Muslim cartoons, but that's not to say they shouldn't exist. People should be able to express their views if they wish, the state doesn't have to protect people from each other - that's not the way to improve society's tolerance of each other, it just hides it.

  • 21.
  • At 05:13 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Oliver Neville-Payne wrote:

Its nice to see a different point of view rather than the Pro-Western viewpoints..and all this cover up and censorship over various subjects and actions that have taken place since 9/11.

To be honest I'm not surprised the BBC would go to another source for a new insight into the "war against terror"...its been ongoing for 5 years now, even WW2 is becoming a mere 'wait for the bus' in comparison. However I can't see why anyone could possibly be interesting in the war anymore...its hardly prime time tv, it certainlyisnt oging anywhere, and its a waste of time, money and common sence.

  • 22.
  • At 05:24 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • anon wrote:

I concur that the BBC made the right choice. The various 'sides' of a dispute should be aired, in order for viewers to be able to construct an informed opinion and exercise their democratic right to agree or disagree. I would be deeply concerned about the freedoms of country that imposed such constraints upon reportage. Impartiality should, insofar as possible, be exercised by the press as this presents information in a manner conducive to constructing an informed opinion - I am not looking for an advertising campaign when I turn on the news. To be objective is impossible since we cannot step outside our humanity, nor our mother tongue. All reporters and editors can do is to judge, in often very tight circumstances and reflecting the avaliability of material, what should be put out, in an impartial manner as possible. 100% of viewers are not going to agree with coverage at any given time but should remember that they are able to voice such dissent and do so on the basis of information.

  • 23.
  • At 05:37 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

Mark (post 6) makes a good point, but is he seriously suggesting that the BBC has an ideological bias towards the Taleban? I think he is comparing an Paxman or Humphreys interview with a field interview done through an interpreter. They are totally different methods of communication. Just because the interviewer doesn't start deeply questioning the Taleban spokesman, doesn't mean that they agree with them, or that the viewer should agree with them - its just making sure that their view is on record.

I think the idea that we should not interview anyone who opposes the west is terrifying - we would end up not being able to distinguish between dissidents and terrorists (as seems to be the case in the US to a certain extent).

  • 24.
  • At 05:46 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Karl wrote:

Stalin, that great conservative,had no problem with news people - it was his way or the gulag. Same with Adolf. Odd that conservatives want to mimic these two.

  • 25.
  • At 05:58 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Keith Robotham wrote:

Balanced international reporting is a hallmark of the BBC. Long may it be so.
However, I do think we have the right to demand a quid pro quo.
Interview anybody in positions where a right of reply,as unbiased as the BBC interview,is facilitated.
That would be balance!
Not an unreasonable standpoint.

  • 26.
  • At 06:19 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

In regards to David Smiths (19) question
_"Could the BBC be helping the Taliban by giving them airtime?"_, I'd say, no, unless the Taliban intend to update their recruitment campaign with the line "as seen on the BBC"..

Re: number 20, I feel I should point out that the anti-Muslim cartoons were controversial because its against Islamic law to reproduce any image of Mohammed.

And to number 21, if the BBC judged what was newsworthy from what the audience found "interesting" the 10 oclock news would lead with the latest from the BB house. Like someone said above, that what we have Fox News for.

  • 27.
  • At 06:52 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Muslim in the US wrote:

I find it these posts to be all over the spectrum, some are extreme right and some are extreme left and some are in the middle, while some are just proof that ignorence runs rampid in the west. Let me explain.

One of the comments made was the objection to the statment that "Good and Evil are Subjective", then it was proceeded by these two examples of what is good and what is evil.

The first was the example of what this person sees as evil, which is the rule of the Taliban over afghanistan and he lists "stoning to death" "refused educated girls" "banning books and arts"

Before I examine what he stated was good let me just clear somethings up. first of all, what is the objection with stoning to death, it is part of the Islamic law that if a person man or women commits adultery (cheats on his wife) then the punishment is stoning to death. It is infact this persons own subjectivity that makes him make the judgment that this is evil, and nothing else. What is evil is the act of adultery and not the punishment for it, because every punishment can be considered to be evil, such as giving the leathal injection ( although he might be against any sort of punishment for any crime) in either case he needs to provide where he gets the values of what is right and what is wrong.

As for the uneducated girls, I am not sure what he means, but in Islam there is nothing wrong with women learning, as long as it is beneficial and it doesn't resemble men, because men and woman have different roles and they must not emulate each other. So, there is nothing wrong with a women becoming a doctor, dentist, nurse, teacher, even a religious scholar who can work on teaching the other girls. If you think about it, it is actually very important for Muslim women to learn because they are the ones who spend the most time with the kids when they are at a young age teaching them their religion.

As for books and arts, if he knew anything about Islam he would know that the first word of revelation to our Prophet Mohammad alihiassalatwassalam was "Read" so we value books a lot more than he thinks, and some of the best caligrophy has come from the Muslim world, let him just look up caligrophy and Islam and he will be convinced, just because we don't like to make statues of naked men and women doesn't mean we don't like arts.

Now, that I have answered his loose argument regarding what is evil let me move on to what he considers so good.

"Democracy" "Free thinking" "education" "enterprise" so can this person even explain what democracy is or does he just throw this word around with no knowledge of what the meaning is. Democracy is just the consensus of the people upon a certain thing, so that can be good or bad depending on the people in the area. What he meant to say was they are trying to bring an American Friendly government which will bow down and obey all the orders coming from the west. This is a long topic, but I just wanted to show that as Muslims we have no need for Democracy because in Islam we have a total way of life already under our thumbs and we do not need the opinion of the People on how to run the country, since God already sent his orders down to us and we just have to say we heard and obeyed.

Free thinking, is that what is worth dropping 500 lbs on innocent men and women and children. I don't think all those bodies burried in Afghanistan and Iraq are doing any kind of thinking what so ever.

Education is something that I already discussed. But the last one, which is enterprise is just his way of saying capatilistic economics where the afghanis just listen to their masters from the west and provide cheap labor the way china does.

I have a question for this individual, how do you know what is right and what is wrong. What is your source for this information. The objectivity of what is right and wrong will differ from one individual to the next. What you consider to be barbaric like the stoning of the adulturous I consider to be fair. what the west considers as freedom, like the freedom to commit acts of homosexuality and sexual deviance I consider to be evil.

What the west considers as good as the permescuity of its women and daughters I consider to be a great evil. The big difference is that I am not judging these things according to my whims and desires like you are, I am judging them by the book of Allah the Quran, but you on the other hand are living by the western laws which change with the change of the direction of the wind, were 20 years ago it was real evil to be a homosexual but now adays it is encouraged and they are even getting married in churches and synogogs.

May God save us from the evils that have started to appear and from the ignorence of the public.


  • 28.
  • At 06:54 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

The BBC were right to show an interview with a Taliban, they are an impartial news organisation not government spin doctors. The BBC have long reported news and opinions of those the government considered enemies and the Taliban should be treated no differently from the Iraqis during the war or the statements of Republicans during the troubles.

Keep up the good work and don’t be cowed by sensationalist fools.

I firmly believe the only time a news organization should self-censor is when the reporters are convinced the story will directly result in the death of an individual uninvolved in the decision to air the report.
Everything else is fair game.

I think it would be amazing and interesting if a reporter not only interviewed a Taleban commander but actually traveled with them and made regular reports.

  • 30.
  • At 07:04 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • dave wrote:

To poster #1 - There have already been several interviews with Bin Laden. E.g. By ABC News and Al Jazeera

  • 31.
  • At 07:12 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Hakim Abdi wrote:

I think the BBC is doing a wonderful job in news reporting. I think there is nothing wrong with broadcasting the Taleban interview because it conveys the message that the network is dedicated purely to transmission of information. Nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, the BBC devotes a lot of space to the sufferings of the Palestinians, why shouldn't they? The network also devotes a lot of space to the various terrorist attacks that have besieged Israel and other western countries. The BBC also reports the ill-treatment of women in Afghanistan, the havoc in Iraq, the circumcision of females in some parts of the world, corrupt governments... etc. etc.

So, the BBC is funded by the British people... and the British people, like everyone else, demand news of events as they happen, wherever they happen. That's called impartiality! The BBC doesnt pick and choose what to report.

If the British people prefer filtered news that caters to the support of the government and it's activities, news that is one-sided and views events from a certain angle, then they need to subscribe to FOX news or any one of the major US networks.

Some of us would like to hear news that is untainted and conveyed in neutrality.

Kudos to the BBC and other independent press that are the beacon of freedom and are dedicated to the distribution of news and unflawed information.

I trust the BBC to be my only source of up to the minute news and information from around the globe.

  • 32.
  • At 07:15 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Mohammed wrote:

Media is one of the important source to create peace and harmony in the society. Terrorist are not born they are made by politicians! Taleban has been made by USA to fight against Russia. Its good to know the otherside of the story. I am really sorry to say even BBC is biased to a particular people or region, specially in Middle East and does not show the true picture of the people suffering from the atrocities of Israels Terrorism! Peace 4 humanity.

  • 33.
  • At 07:21 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • John Smith wrote:

I agree that allowing psychotic, war-mongering advocates of crimes against humanity time on the BBC is a bad idea. I therefore suggest that henceforth, the BBC should neither broadcast nor comment on the view of... well, just about every country on the planet.

Even Britain, during (and after) World War II carried out attrocities against civilians. We're talking State-sanctioned torture and brainwashing, here. Did those civilians do anything wrong to deserve it? We'll never know - the papers unclassified revealing these crimes made it clear that most - if not all - were secretly executed without trial or died from their abuse.

Hey, I love Britain, I regard it as one of the most enlightened, culturally-advanced societies in existance today. But enough with the righteous indignation. We're no saints. If the BBC were to only transmit the views of the valient, pure and true, the newscasts would never get past the title sequence.

May I also remind everyone here that censorship was tried in the times of Emperess Thatcher, but that not a single life was saved because of it. It is possible it made things far worse, but history will make the final judgement call on that.

Last, but by no means least, the views of the Taleban are indeed well-known. I will summarise them here: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Do those words sound familiar? They should.

  • 34.
  • At 07:31 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • John wrote:

In these days of the internet, one can get news and interviews from Aljazeera (a former BBC Middle East center) as easily as from BBC. I have both at the fingertips from a favorites list on my browser.

  • 35.
  • At 07:33 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • ali akbar wrote:

Of course BBC has no right to spend the BRITISH liscence fee on religious(islamic) fannatics.

it should only serve the perpouse and point of view of the Collonial and Racist,religious(christian,Israeli) fannatics, some of whom can't even listen to other's point of view far from actually annalysing it with an open mind and accepting the truth.

My freinds, the democracy and liberty you so claim to stand for, can only be protected and spread to those who dont enjoy it by having unbiased media channels where right or wrong, both parties are able to express and defend themselves.

it is the lack or control of such channels that spurs radical means of protest and expressions.

Bravo BBC!
keep up the good work!

  • 36.
  • At 07:36 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • attapmann wrote:

I was wondering if the BBC ever broadcasted any Nazi representative's interviews during WW2. Consistency in standards.
and it's always good to hear the enemies' viewpoint.

  • 37.
  • At 07:40 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • mehfooz wrote:

yes,we have a right to listen both the parties involved in any conflict.usually single sided version
in any conflict is hardly true.

  • 38.
  • At 07:43 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • desiree wrote:

BBC is a news provider, which means that it is to report on events and circumstances that are "newsworthy" (of sufficient interest or importance to the public). Afghanistan (and, some would argue, a larger portion of south asia) is currently at war with the Taleban. War is newsworthy. The Taleban is therefore newsworthy, and like it or not, it follows that the views of the Taleban are newsworthy. Kudos to the BBC for maintaining that one of the main tenets of reporting is impartiality. News is news no matter who is making it, and who's reporting on it. Sadly, here in my home country of the USA, the media has incrementally been straying from straight, impartial news reporting, to watered-down and sugar coated reporting techniques. I can barely imagine a US reporter interviewing a Taleban warlord in Afghanistan or a Sunni insurgent in Iraq -- it would most likely be viewed as "unpatriotic" or "un-American," let alone that it probably wouldn't be allowed air time in the first place (there's a growing view here that certain mysterious powers-that-be "discourage" such type of reporting). Who sounds like the fascist now? The UK public should be very glad that the BBC, one of its top news providers, constantly seeks to provide the public with controversial and creative reporting. It is this vey type of reporting that encourages dialogue, and few would argue that dialogue is a bad thing.

  • 39.
  • At 07:48 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Michael wrote:

Of course the Taleban should be allowed to appear on the BBC News. Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of our fantastic democracy, but that freedom also applies to everyone equally - friend or foe. Without freedom of speech News broadcasts becomes nothing more than propaganda. Give the Taleban the air thime they want - they will only end up destroying their own arguement.

  • 40.
  • At 07:52 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Arthur Rodrigues wrote:

If BBC starts censoring itself, it's better to shut it down and broadcast FOX news to the british citizens.
It's not only acceptable that journalists interview Al Qaida's "representants", but it's a duty: the news are made to inform people, to help themselves make their own decisions and not educate, manipulate or create a Wonderland.

Congratulations to that decision. I hope officers quit - forever - openly or not, trying to interfere on the BBC's affairs.

  • 41.
  • At 07:53 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • William Roddy wrote:

F***, NO!

It is a disgrace to every one of your Britsh soldiers and every one of our U.S.A. soldiers who have given their lives to try to rid the world of this cancer.

If the BBC would like to do something constructive, why not use some time and space to encourage the governments of the world to join together to put an end to the Taliban and every other murderous group that is determined to plunge the world back into the Dark Ages.

You legitimize those murderers, so they will have won. And you have provided definitely provided support and comfort to an enemy not only of Britian, but of the world.

  • 42.
  • At 07:54 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Avinash wrote:

We have a long history of "governments" managing the "message". It is amazing that the Defence Sec thinks briton are so stupid that they will be confused by what a man with his face covered has to say. I agree with Mr. Howells above, free speech is very important and BBC did the right thing and getting the Teleban voice will actually allow more people to see how warped their view of the world is.

Thanks for doing the story, love this blog.

  • 43.
  • At 07:55 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Dylan wrote:

What's the problem with interviewing the Taleban? Afraid that by giving them a platform, they'll be capable of recruiting more militants over the BBC? Give me a break, if people are really that easily swayed, why bother even reporting the news in the first place? Anyone who sees the Taleban on TV and as a result is more sympathetic to the Taleban, that's not the BBC's problem.

  • 44.
  • At 07:58 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Melissa wrote:

Here's how i see it, you don't want to hear from the Taliban, because you see them as the enemy. However, isn't it most wise to "know your enemy", and to the comment about Hitler. Had the American public been shown what was common knowledge in the UK at the time as far as the holocaust, perhaps they would have entered in to WWII far before Pearl Harbor was attacked. I highly doubt that showing a point of view will hurt the public.

  • 45.
  • At 08:01 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • N.R. wrote:

I'm very glad that the BBC has decided to get both sides of the issue out there, as any good journalist should. (Now if only the news companies here in America would follow suit...)

When it comes to such a complex subject, it's important that those in power as well as the ordinary public have access to what the "other side" is saying. Though we do not agree with the Taliban, it is both a duty as civilized people and a sign of respect to acnowledge their opinion.

Actions like these are the only ways to end this slow, dreadful war. Thank you for doing the right thing!

I remember a time not so many years ago that the Government banned the reporting of speech from a known terrorist organisation (the IRA) to "deny them the oxygen of publicity".

Do the BBC seriously think that the Taliban are so unsophisticated that they cannot cover their poisonous creed with a veneer of respectability.

As happened then, the denial of publicity was one of the factors that led to the terrorist's alienation from their support.

Let's see the Government act on this now.

  • 47.
  • At 08:11 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Peter wrote:

Yes the bbc should be broadcasting this kind of stuff. Also the warlords, the drug smugglers, the corrupt politicians, and our frontline soldiers on the ground (not the PR captains).

Lets get a true picture of the mess governments are placing our soldiers in. Not government spin and 'dodgey dossiers'.

  • 48.
  • At 08:12 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Ross wrote:

First, the Taleban have committed heinous crimes but if that's the yardstick for who deserves press coverage then I hope to never again see the face of Mr Blair or any of his Iraq War colleagues in the media.

Second, who says the Taleban can't have some legitimate points, even if they're an utterly depraved terrorist group?

Third, by wanting to clamp down on media coverage of "the enemy" you're saying that the government doesn't trust the British people to make up their own minds on the matter. Is that really how little the government trusts Britons?

And, finally, how much of a failure does your foreign policy have to be for you to be worried that a group like the Taleban would be able to win over your supporters anyway?

It is critical that we have a better understanding of the 'enemy'. There can be genuine greiveances in the way the war is being prosecuted and military and the defense secretary would do well to listen to whomever they are fighting.

It is also important for British citizens to know more about the view from the opposing party for they need views aside from the ones given my honchos from the defense ministry. Citizens need to make decisions about whether to let their government conduct a war and for that they need honest information that can sometimes take the shape of interviewing the Taliban.

  • 50.
  • At 08:14 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Coke R. Smith wrote:

Contending that abetted enemy propoganda advances an understanding of anything except terrorist marketing stretgy is ludicrous - a childs error, or worse, a calulated duplicity by BBC. Surely the writer would not consider themselves morally and usefully illuminated by repeated perpetrator requests for dialog and protracted sober justifications for the, say, ongoing torture and rape of their daughters, under the '2 sides' inanity.

Coke R. Smith

Yes I will like to listen/se interviews with the Taliban’s. Its seems like a odd companionship in my view so how could I get to a opinion without it?

  • 52.
  • At 08:18 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Diane Wolfe wrote:

I live in rural Colorado and thanks to the web and satellites I check in with the BBC and al jazeera on a regular basis to expand my understanding of the world around me. Understanding Afganistan and the taliban is absolutely essential for all of us who are citizens of countries that have people fighting and dying. The very least I can do is pay attention. Thank you, BBC for seeking all truth regardless of who it belongs to.

I was very impressed that the BBC actually had the guts to interview an opposite side in a British conflict. Well done on giving both sides of a conflict.

"the Beeb yet again giving a voice to the terrorists and not the ordinary people they are constantly terrorising"

I'm sorry - did I imagine the BBC showing a program on 7/7? How about those programs about 9/11? Clearly my imagination is running away with me...

"The real scandal is that the BBC does not turn to a more credible source than the Taleban for an opposing view - an anti-war group, for example"

You're seriously suggesting that the opposing side in a war has less of an idea why it's fighting than people who've probably never been there and get their information from 3rd party sources?

"And let's not hear "Oh but Good and Evil are subjective". No they are not. They are clearly identifiable."

But, in declaring that the Taliban are evil, we believe that we are good. Yet, we have commited atrocities, we have killed hundreds upon thousands of people. In the name of good? What is good again?

  • 54.
  • At 08:24 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • John Reginald wrote:

By publishing opposing view points the BBC is only going to confuse the far left and the far right as to what their beliefs are. We can not stand for this!

Was it not less than 100 years ago that most of the Western "civilized" world had similar practices towards women, children, and minorities as the Taliban has today? Did we have to have an outside force come in to set us "right"? Could we not educate them so that they can take up this war themselves and fight for what they feel is right? Not what we feel is right?

If we continue down our facist routines, whether left or right, we will be no better than "them" the "evil ones".

"...We need to be careful in explaining how interviews or statements with the Taleban are obtained and provide clear explanation to our audiences for why we are reporting those views, but it is entirely legitimate to broadcast such material and we will continue to do so..."

This in and of itself is a propaganda double standard which should not be necessary. BBC reports Bush and Rice's views, which are equally rife with lies and propaganda, without qualifying their statements in any way... even when BBC's editors know that Bush and Rice are lying. So why should the Taliban be held to a higher standard than the most powerful aggressor on the planet?

  • 56.
  • At 08:30 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Wm. Clough wrote:

It is important to know not just what is going on, but the justification of those persons conducting the action - for good or ill. If the total coverage includes historical background, and explores the reality behind the ideas expressed, a free and thinking society has no need to fear this sort of thing. The only problem is the "thinking" part, many people around the world don't critically analyze what they see or hear. Therein lies the danger. Who is right? Unfortunately, only time will truly tell.

  • 57.
  • At 08:56 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • neil sutherland wrote:

Of course the BBC should seek out and broadcast the views of the Taleban and others, no matter how obnoxious and vile their medieval madness may be. And, as a former journalist, I cannot agree that such interviews should be adversial. Give these buggers enough rope and they will tie it around their own neck. We are all hopefully intelligent enough to sort the wheat from the chaff and we get enough chaff from our own pols anyway. That the broadcasts may give "support" to their views is fallacious. It just exposes them to the bright light of public scrutiny. The Beeb should continue to give us all the news and let us be our own judges

  • 58.
  • At 09:00 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Mike Bee wrote:

Ignorance combined with arrogance creates the perfect conditions for war. We already know that the UK and the US are arrogant in their position in the world (attacking sovereign countries on a whim). The least the BBC could do is to inform the public about what the Taleban wants in this war, to decrease the ignorance in the UK and US.

  • 59.
  • At 09:09 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

The Beeb has gained huge respect around the world for its impartial reporting of world news.

We should be proud of that.

Who knows, because the Beeb has broadcast this, maybe some young influential members of our UK society may be more inclined to listen to two sides rather than be brainwashed by one.

  • 60.
  • At 09:24 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Thane DeWitt wrote:

The BBC can forget me as a subscriber and listener from this day forth.

  • 61.
  • At 09:27 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Laura wrote:

I am grateful to the BBC for providing us with a voice from the other side. Hearing the views of the Taleban is not likely to convert many of the BBC's audience to militant Islam, but if we are not given the opportunity of hearing the other side, how is it possible for us to arrive at any intellegent understanding this or any other situation?

  • 62.
  • At 09:27 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Eero wrote:

Well done BBC. You have always been the benchmark public broadcaster, reporting on issues in a fashion that gives the neccessary information without pushing a particular viewpoint. Of course the right-wingers are furious that theirs is not the only position given space, like is happening in corporate media.

How is an informed person supposed to know WHY the Taleban are being fought by the British if they are never reported on? And why not an interview with bin Laden? Are you guys really afraid that he might have something to say you don't want to hear, or something that might change someone's mind? Sure he's a terrorist, but I'd rather hear about his motivations straight from the horse's mouth than from the Americans... "he hates our freedom!!", and all that.

To the first poster who suggested the BBC "didn't take the same position with Hitler"... read up on history. The BBC was actually quite neutral in their wartime reporting, and has gone down in history for that.

  • 63.
  • At 09:28 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • David wrote:

How did you manage to persuade Andre Agassi to dress up in that Taleban turban???

  • 64.
  • At 09:33 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Dennis Lynch wrote:

T'would be nice if we could get such unbiased TV in the US. Most people here watch Murdoch's "Fox News" -hah!!

  • 65.
  • At 09:39 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Roger Yvon Kellner wrote:

People like me, with few present connections to the UK, read and listen to the BBC and the BBC World Service because of their (mostly) well-earned reputations for accurate and complete presentations of issues. An interview with Talaban representatives is a great idea. As to the claims of the Defense Ministry, I'm sure the British Armed Forces are sophisticated enough to know how to 'read' whatever the Talaban representatives have to say.

  • 66.
  • At 09:40 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • D. Augustin wrote:

If not the Taleban, why George Bush or Tony Blair who, many people believe (I certainly do), deserve to be tried for war crimes? But, of course, it's always easier to see what's wrong with the others than to take a good look in the mirror.

of course the bbc should show such interviews. i would expect it to interview bin laden too if it had the chance.

i can make my own decisions about what is right and wrong once i have sufficient information. it is the bbc's job to provide that information, not to feed me only what a policitian - or anyone else - thinks is best.

that does not mean that all information should be provided without any analysis. but an interview of an influential source plus an analysis providing context (providing a viewer to understand why it is wrong, if that is the case) is clearly prefereable to no interview. to hold otherwise is to argue for the worst kind of "nanny state", surely?

the bbc is a news source, not a government spokesman.

  • 68.
  • At 10:10 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Nick wrote:

Thanks BBC for some honest reporting and particularly for the feature on the thought-provoking feature on the British Tel Aviv bombers yesterday.

Many of us could not believe the naivity (stupidity?) of the government in reinforcing the invasion of Afghanistan. A strategic retreat would still be wisest.
Otherwise many more will die before we leave. Incidently what about a feature about the analysis of casualty figures? We hear "so many taliban" have been killed....and how many children, old people, villagers?

  • 69.
  • At 10:49 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • James Antimoro wrote:

Yes by all means interview the Taleban but if the BBC wants to be balanced also interview those who are violently opposed to Islam and who want to deal with muslims forthrightly and uncompromisingly.

  • 70.
  • At 10:54 PM on 12 Jul 2006,
  • Serban Oprescu wrote:

I think leting the views of all the parties involved to be heard is a way out of many crises. While the other side might complain, should one try to solve the problems involving such "ugly" characters it would help any peaceful attempt. It is worth noting that Israel's current military operations, while brilliantly devised and perfectly executed, brought them nothing in terms of military or political goals. All the moderator has to do is block propaganda, keep the presentation to the facts, as much as possible. Undrstanding what the Taleban want - or any comparable party, for that matter - and why they claim to have a right to obtain, improves chances for achieving your own objectives.

  • 71.
  • At 12:48 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Gary S. Tomczik wrote:

Sadly, I have to express my belief that the BBC is presently not upholding it's long history of maintaining 'balanced reporting'. With regard to whether or not it is appropriate to broadcast an interview with the Taliban; I side with those respondents who feel it is not necessary to give their representative the status of a BBC interview to ensure viewers, many of whom have suffered as a result of their actions, understand their side of the story. I feel most reasonable and intelligent viewers cannot fail to understand their side already, from knowledge gained in no small part from their own published material and aired videos espousing their agenda, but especially their actions, which are very hard to misunderstand or misinterpret. And there are also the writings of countless national and international journalists, fairly representing both sides. So, to air this interview is to me to show that there is a bit of a disconnect among the editorial staff from the realities of our today's world. In this case obviously feeling there is still a need to provide the Taliban a voice on the BBC, in the name of 'fairness' - failing to see the imprudence of this decision, given the nature of the organizations actions and expressed objectives which are, unfortunately, not to encourage dialog but designed to exploit weakness, and, yes, very often to bring harm our way.
In addition to this issue I would just like to add the following; I first started listening to the BBC when living in England from 1976 to 1978. I returned again during the period of 1980 to 1988, and always felt at the time that the BBC presented news 'as it is' - and I was deeply respectful of the professionalism exhibited (by the lack of bias) of news readers and reporting staff. At the time I felt that we in the States would do well to adopt the same standards in many of our news rooms. Then from 1996 until 2003 I lived in Africa, and on a daily basis listened to or watched the BBC World Service. It was then that I noticed the 'tone' had changed - the bias of many news readers, reporters and reporting was hard to miss - and with each year it only seemed to get worse.
I now access the BBC on the internet. In my view the old impeccable standards are being further compromised and the credibility of the BBC is sadly eroding. I can only suspect the personal political leanings, or an extreme desire to be 'politically correct', is compromising the news staff's (and editorial staff's) objectivity and fairness. And that deeply disappoints me because I felt in those years, and feel now, that the world needs so badly what the old BBC was.
So, what has caused this policy shift, which I know I am not alone in noticing? Some would say there is a political driver. I don't know. I can only say if the present editorial staff cannot recognize this deterioration of their venerable institution which is leading them to become just another (openly biased) news agency, then this is truly a sad situation - for England certainly, but I would say the world community as well - all those who have looked to the BBC as a beacon of truth and objectivity. Perhaps the editor(s) can at least read these comments, from a mere long time listener/viewer, now web reader, who I can assure them, has NO agenda. But is just one person who is very fond of England and deeply valued the old BBC, for it's unbridled professionalism, and for that matter, it's high regard for speaking the English language well, which was/is a boon for English learners everywhere. I would be great to see a return to it's old standards of excellence.

  • 72.
  • At 01:09 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • vsivasubramaniam wrote:

I do not see any harm in what the BBC has done. Balanced reporting is good reporting. There are diehearts who are intolerant of dissent and who drive those dissenting away from dialogue and thereby contribute to the violence and conflicts that is afflicting the world. This is especialy the view of the silent millions in the non-aligned world.

  • 73.
  • At 01:28 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Michael Brunson wrote:

BBC please rethink this - you are providing a terrorist organization (dedicated to our destruction) a platform to espouse their distorted perceptions, and are really providing 'aid and comfort' to the enemy. Would you have some Nazi skin-head person sharing their ideas and beliefs so we can have a more 'balanced' news - ridiculous! I noticed you recently used Hamas video for a story about the first Israeli soldier kidnapping, and there too it seems to provide legitimacy and moral support to a terrorist outfit who have no honor or scruples. I really believe this promotes more hatred and violence in the world - ignoring fools is sometimes a better idea. Sincerely, Dr. Michael Brunson

  • 74.
  • At 01:56 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • John Adamson wrote:

If the BBC will stand for nothing, it will fall for anything.

Including radical Islam.

  • 75.
  • At 03:01 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Angie wrote:

Don't give the Talebans air time, please. They only incite hatred for the non-muslims, the freedom and the unsuppressed. In the Far East, we also have problems with the muslims. We try to live with them but there is still something that makes them distance themselves from others...Their intepretation of their religion. In conclusion, let the talebans, afghans and iraqi fight their own wars...We of the civilised world should get on with our lives, without trying to bring democracy to other countries, just man our borders. Mankind is still not ready for a unified Earth.

  • 76.
  • At 03:28 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Mary-Alice W. Martines wrote:

Thank you, BBC, for attempting (and often succeeding) to bring all voices into the public discussion. The kind of coverage you provide is very hard to find in my country (USA)
which is why you are my home page.
Please keep on interviewing whomever you believe we need to hear from in order to get the fullest, deepest understanding of the issues of the day. Thank you for being there.

  • 77.
  • At 03:44 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Joe Antimoro wrote:

In regards to Adam (22) we are not subject to Islamic law nor are we obliged to accept their doctrine. I thought those cartoons were splendid and should have been reproduced by the government as posters and plastered on the walls of every English city.

  • 78.
  • At 04:23 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • david wrote:

Of course the public should be given both sides of the story. That is the only way they can arrive at an informed opinion.

If the government believes it has the moral highground and has nothing to hide then it should have nothing to worry about.

  • 79.
  • At 05:32 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Johan De Beer wrote:

I full-hearted agree with the BBC’s position. Yet to be on a level field, I think that when the British Prime Minister dares to show his face, the depicted Taliban representative should drop his veil, not be a coward about his stance and show his face too.

Johan De Beer

  • 80.
  • At 07:38 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • chris mantas wrote:


It is ok for pluralism to present all the views, both A.Q. and counter terrorists views but if you want pluralism you shall INCLUDE all the views. For example Muslims are protesting for violation of their rights and for not respecting their religion but I never seen in any British or US media the destruction of Christian Churches in Turkish occupied Cyprus, the fact that the largest Orthodox Church in Constantinople, (St.Sophia - Aghia Sophia) has been turned in a mosque and now in Museum without respecting Christian symbols and there have been only some rare references for the violence against the Kopts from Muslims in Egypts.

So, if you decide to present the Terrorists' views and the usual title for the "opresed muslims" please make a reference to what happened to Christians on other areas of the world.

  • 81.
  • At 10:32 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Marcel wrote:

24. At 05:46 PM on 12 Jul 2006, Karl wrote:
Stalin, that great conservative,had no problem with news people - it was his way or the gulag. Same with Adolf. Odd that conservatives want to mimic these two.

except for the fact that Stalin was a communist and Hitler was a socialist...

  • 82.
  • At 11:49 AM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

To Ian (post 23), I did not say BBC should not interview the Taleban, quite the opposite. But when it does, it has an obiligation to elicit the full scope of the Taleban position and view of society so that it can be revealed by the interviewees themselves to BBC's audience, in this case in all its horror. Neither Taleban nor anyone else being interviewed should be allowed to selectively control which of their actions and aspects of their philosophy to focus on to the exclusion of all others, especially those most at odds with their opponents and insofar as the Taleban is concerned, its victims. It is this out of context presentation which gives the audience a biased, unrealistic, and unrepresentative view in which the interviewer is complicit whether by intent or by passivity.

I keep thinking of BBC's interviews with Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal who would likely be viewed by BBC audiences resulting from these presentations as mainstream American liberal thinkers rather than being on the lunatic fringe of the extreme left wing of politics as seen by most Americans. Neither their fallacies of fact nor self contradictions were ever challenged in the interviews. Interviewees who support and defend the Bush administration by contrast are challenged from start to finish in the most agressive way possible. This is not professional journalism, it's pure propaganda and of a most insidious nature.

  • 83.
  • At 01:06 PM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Henrik R Clausen wrote:

It's good to expose the Taliban for the criminals they are. In the name of religion they wish to destroy all kinds of freedoms, pluralism, culture and history. Music? Not in their country. Cinemas? Better burn 'them. Women? Treat them the way prescribed in the Quran and exemplified by Mohammad. Infidels? Don't exist in our country, at least not for long. Ancient culture? If it's non-Islamic, unconditional destruction is the way to go.

It's good to know what these people are up to, that we can help resist it.

  • 84.
  • At 01:08 PM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Dr. Harsha Ratna Shakya wrote:

The criticism of BBC for interviewing the Talliban leaders was an unnecessary excercise. In my opinion BBC has done the right thing by bringing them in the public. Let the whole world listen to them also and let Talliban try to justify for their killings of innocents which I am sure they cannot. More we treat them like untouchables , more they are going to be ruthless killers. They must be brought to international media more frequently so that one day they would feel so much guilty of man slaughter and they would not only feel ashamed of what they have been doing , their own muslim community would curse them for bringing the shame on Islam.

Dr. Harsha Ratna Shakya

  • 85.
  • At 01:32 PM on 13 Jul 2006,
  • Dr. Harsha Ratna Shakya wrote:

The criticism of BBC for interviewing the Talliban leaders was an unnecessary excercise. In my opinion BBC has done the right thing by bringing them in the public. Let the whole world listen to them also and let Talliban try to justify for their killings of innocents which I am sure they cannot. More we treat them like untouchables , more they are going to be ruthless killers. They must be brought to international media more frequently so that one day they would feel so much guilty of man slaughter and they would not only feel ashamed of what they have been doing , their own muslim community would curse them for bringing the shame on Islam.

Dr. Harsha Ratna Shakya

Having read through and seriously considered all of the comments, several stood out as deserving of a response (generally for rather inane or idiotic responses), luckily, they all pale beside the most excellent posting of #71, Mr. Gary Tomczik. I really miss the good old days when the BBC was the ne plus ultra of international journalism. It was the one agency you could always rely on to get the true story, but as he says, this is true no longer; a malign liberal bias has crept in.

The Talib interview is over now, and in the past, and while I wasn't a fan of the idea, I believe the Beeb has an obligation to present this facet of the war to its audience. However, I believe they are failing miserably in presenting all the other (often differing) facets that make up the war as well. The ones such as the members of Theo Van Gogh's family, or Ayan Hirsi Ali, the views of moderate Muslims who aren't happy with the idea of violent jihad and streets awash with the blood of infidels, or maybe any of the people living in Belgium who are looking at the possibility of Arabic becoming one of their country's official languages. Maybe some on-site interviews with the troops, and their stories in their words on why they're there, or people who have lost family members to the State Security Apparatus under Qusay and Udai, or (Heaven forbid) maybe some grateful Iraqi's who have been able to start their lives over again once the Coalition brought down Saddam's regime. Were they to do this, then would they be able to justify their claim of impartiality.
Otherwise, it's just the same old tossing a bucket of whitewash into the viewer's eyes.

  • 87.
  • At 12:53 PM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Lis Wilson wrote:

I find it strange that Bush and Blair both go to Christian churches, yet don't talk about Forgiving your enemy, which was a fairly radical, but important idea in the Gospels.

Forgiveness is not about saying there are no unkind acts. It is trying to show a different way of living with unkindness. It upsets me that anyone would think that stoning someone to death is a symptom of a happy or healthy society. Equally, I don't see how dropping daisy-cutter bombs, or depriving civilians of food aid can be considered in any way moral.

In my experience as a teacher, people only respect those who practise what they preach. As in nature, children learn by example.

If what the USA spent on defense in the period of 3 months were spent on education, food and health, NOONE on the planet would have to go without.
(See website `Movement against war'. Where is it written that Jackboots produce happiness? Whose bible would that be???

I would also like to add that there are plenty of organisation trying to find ways of encouraging people to participate in their communities in way that encourages harmony eg

If you are a news reporter, do you not perhaps feel that showing these initiatives might be important?? I looked hard for a report of George Clooney's speech to the United Nations yesterday, but found myself watching a webcast instead.

It would be nice to think we could have Heaven on earth without annihilating each other first!

Om mane padme hum
(Compassion to all beings)


This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.