Minister backs BBC over Islamist interview

Culture minister David Lammy is expected to defend the BBC's decision last month to interview a controversial Islamic cleric on the Today programme.

Speaking at a lecture on media and diversity hosted by journalism think-tank Polis tonight, Lammy will defend the media's right to freedom of expression while stressing that it is not right for the media to be offensive.

The minister will say: "So when people ask should the BBC or Al Jazeera interview thouse who seek to spread mistrust and division through a twisted and perverted interpretation of Islam then the answer is, yes they should.

"Because a commitment to freedom of expression means exposing the views of people like Abu Izzadeen or Nick Griffin for what they are."

In September, Radio 4's Today programme broadcast an interview with the controversial Islamic cleric Abu Izzadeen who, days earlier, had heckled Home Secretary John Reid during a speech to Muslim parents.

During the BBC interview Izzadeen accused the UK and USA of launching a "crusade" against Muslims adding, "If they don't stop this, there is going to be a very strong reaction from the Muslim community."

The programme was heavily criticised by the Muslim Council of Britain, which described Abu Izzadeen as a "thug" and accused the BBC of deliberately trying to generate publicity.

Speaking about the responsibility held by news media that served an ethnic minority audience, Lammy praised the work of The Voice newspaper.

He said: "It did everything a newspaper should. It helped give Black Britons a sense of pride and belonging. It campaigned ceaselessly against injustice.

"With indefatigable campaigners like Bernie Grant, it helped push political issues and Black voices from the margins to the centre of public debate. And it wasn't afaid to ask tough questions of Black Britons themselves."

However he contrasted this approach with the pirate radio station in Birmingham which stoked riots in the Lozells area of the town which Lammy said: "had no interest in discovering the truth and who had no commitment to plural debate, spread fear, anger and hatred."


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