London mayoral candidate takes BBC, ITV to court over censorship

|PIC1|A London mayoral candidate is taking the BBC and ITV to the High Court for 'censoring' his party Election Broadcasts in the run up to the May 1 elections.

The Christian Choice candidate, Alan Craig, has instructed the Christian Legal Centre to file papers this morning at the Royal Courts of Justice after BBC and ITV officials instructed him to remove parts of his Party Election Broadcast which was aired on Wednesday evening.

Cllr Craig, a long-standing campaigner against the 'mega-mosque', due to be built in Newham close to the site of the Olympic Games, originally described the organisation behind it, Tablighi Jamaat, as 'separatist'.

However, BBC and ITV officials responsible for supervising the Broadcasts instructed him to moderate his views and change this description of the Islamic organisation if he wanted it aired.

Cllr Craig claims not only 'political interference' by the broadcasters, but says such action breeches his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of speech.

According to the Christian Legal Centre, Cllr Craig changed the word to "controversial" under duress. Late in the day ITV insisted that the agreed word "controversial" should be applied to the mosque plans not to the Islamic group. Cllr Craig's objections to the mega-mosque, however, have consistently been related to the nature of the Islamic group behind the project - the plans have not yet been published.

Cllr Craig said: "BBC and ITV officials, none of whom were lawyers to our knowledge, clearly instructed us to 'tone down' our views and change the sense if we wanted the PEB broadcast. The legal language of 'libel' was mentioned by the BBC, and in the case of TV, we were forced to go back to the studios at the last minute to record a censored version of the PEB.

"I am advised that libel is a defamation of an individual, and no-where in the broadcast do we defame individuals. My comments are reasonable and moderate and do not contradict the Racial and Religious Hatred Act. The BBC and ITV are not entitled to limit free speech and I look forward to the judge ordering them both to broadcast my original message."

Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "Providing that the content of an election broadcast is within the law, the BBC and ITV should enable the electorate to hear the unedited views of candidates and allow them to make up their own minds as to whether they agree or not."

The Christian Legal Centre will be calling for a Judicial Review of the BBC's and ITV's decision, and ask the judge to order, as a matter of urgency, the unedited Party Election Broadcast on both channels. The case will be heard next Monday when Cllr Craig will be represented by leading Human Rights barrister, Paul Diamond, who represented Nadia Eweida in the BA Cross row.