Thursday 8 January 2015

BBC Guidelines: "The Prophet Mohammed must not be represented in any shape or form"

I wasn't aware, until BBC Watch pointed it out, that the BBC's Editorial Guidelines explicitly ban the BBC from using images of Mohammed:
Due care and consideration must be made regarding the use of religious symbols in images which may cause offence. The Prophet Mohammed must not be represented in any shape or form.
No other religion is protected by such a blanket prohibition. No other religion is treated with such sensitivity.

Douglas Murray, writing in the Daily Mail, says:
....what happened yesterday – though the most appalling incident of its kind yet – is in many ways far from unprecedented. It is just the latest chapter in a long, concerted campaign to shut down criticism and discussion of one religion, its founder and its teachings.
The aim of the campaign is to place that religion – Islam – above the level of all other religions or ideas and make it immune from criticism. And the tactic is working.
The historian Tom Holland, writing on the BBC News website, recounts his own experiences of "a firestorm of death threats" following a film he made for Channel 4, Islam: The Untold Story, which "explored the gathering consensus among historians that much of what Muslims have traditionally believed about the life of Muhammad is unlikely to be strict historical fact":
Unlike Charlie Hebdo, I had not set out to give offence. I am no satirist, and I do not usually enjoy hurting people's feelings. Nevertheless, I too feel that some rights are worthy of being defended - and among them is the freedom of historians to question the origin myths of religions. That was why, when I heard the news from Paris yesterday, I chose to do something I would never otherwise have done, and tweet a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Muhammad.
The BBC, by contrast, has decided not to reproduce the cartoon for this article. Many other media organisations - though not all - have done the same. I refuse to be bound by a de facto blasphemy taboo.
While under normal circumstances I am perfectly happy not to mock beliefs that other people hold dear, these are far from normal circumstances. As I tweeted yesterday, the right to draw Muhammad without being shot is quite as precious to many of us in the West as Islam presumably is to the Charlie Hebdo killers.
We too have our values - and if we are not willing to stand up for them, then they risk being lost to us. When it comes to defining l'infâme, I for one have no doubt whose side I am on.


  1. The BBC has form on tailoring their editorial policy to Mohammedan religious belief. Like with their insistence on saying "the Prophet Mohammed", rather than something like "the Muslim Prophet" or "Islam's Prophet..."

    Their excuse for it is laughable:

    It seems that there's no hard policy, but a recommendation that the phrase "the Prophet Muhammad" is used to avoid any confusion about which particular Muhammad is under discussion. The head of BBC Radio News, Stephen Mitchell, was asked whether a double standard was operating when he appeared on Feedback on Radio 4.

    "No, it's not the case. I think the reason for the use of the term "the prophet" is simply for reasons of clarity. There are a lot of Muhammads we could be referring to in news stories and we're being quite specific about which one we are talking about", he said.

    I have difficulty believing that they even believe what they're saying here. In essence, the BBC obeys Islamic law, even though non-Muslims aren't required to (yet), because fundamentalists will get upset if non-Muslims don't obey Islamic law.

    As it happens, Judaism has a similar proscription on depicting the human (or even animal) form (graven images). Guess where Mohammed got it from. But the BBC doesn't refrain from depicting Jewish figures. For example, in this "off-beat" radio feature on Elijah, or this image of Jonah.

    But it would be racist to suggest that it's okay because Jews don't get violent about it.

    1. In contrast to the BBC, David, ITV''s main evening news bulletin yesterday (reporter Emma Murphy) did use the phrase "the Muslim prophet Mohammad".

      ITV's editorial guidelines mustn't be as carefully tailored.

    2. David Dimbleby has let the cat out of the bag tonight on QT. He read out the BBC editorial guidelines. About his only telling intervention in the last 10 years.

      Dan Read

  2. It would like requiring reporters to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ whenever they referred to Jesus of Nazareth.

  3. I guess the BBC broke their own guidelines then last night as Newsnight ran an article which clearly displayed on of the Charlie Hebdo depictions of Muhammad Skip to 34:19

    1. Good on them for doing so.

      It's not the first time they've done so either. They came in for criticism for originally refusing to show the 'Jesus and Mo' cartoons and then had a change of heart and showed them in a later programme:

  4. I'm genuinely amazed that the Marxists who run the BBC have this policy!

  5. As it stands, the page in question remains 'a problem, in error'.

    It is neither of these, of course. It has been taken down while they try and figure out with what to replace what a million e-archives have now preserved.

    Either the powers that be don't do weekends (or were not locatable to do their jobs - both possible), or they are still in a huddle after many hours, if not days, trying to figure a way out of what is a whopping dilemma atop another credibility PR nightmare already.

    The other possibility is they are staying quiet and hoping it all 'moves on' and gets forgotten.

    Not sure these days they are going to find everyone cooperating.

    The state broadcaster adopting such a policy, its staff at best being mixed in their awareness and/or interpretation, with senior management rabbit-in-headlight response (again), and now the rush to react but not do anything when caught out, lays bear just how messed up as a corporate entity they are.


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