Denying extremists the oxygen of publicity

By Boris Sedacca

There is no question that political extremists, including those on both sides of the ethical fence, regard democracy as an inconvenient obstruction on the road to the imposition of their views. Some say these extremists should be denied the oxygen of publicity, but I for one believe that allowing them to express their poisonous views publicly gives them enough rope with which to hang themselves. At present, of course, this debate is raging with particular regard to Islamic extremists.

On BBC’s Newsnight programme, British-born radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary said he was ‘shocked’ by the murder of a soldier in Woolwich, but refused to condemn the attack.

The suspects, now known to be Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, were known to security services. Choudary said that he encountered Adebolajo at a number of Islamist demonstrations. To be fair, Newsnight's presenter Kirsty Wark did grill him ruthlessly about his views, as did the other two moderate Muslims in the studio.

Now, according to yesterday’s Press Gazette, BBC’s acting head of news Fran Unsworth, came under fire for her decision to air the interview with Choudary on Newsnight the day after last week’s murder.

Reacting to Home Secretary Theresa May’s call to ban extremists from appearing on TV and radio, Fran Unsworth said it was a subject for debate but defended the BBC’s decision to interview Choudary.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Media Show: “It’s important for people to understand what we’re up against.” She added that Choudary “was very strongly challenged” on his views during the interview and pointed out that there are existing laws against incitement that can be used without the need to tighten broadcasting regulations.

“As far as the ‘oxygen of publicity’ is concerned, the argument doesn’t really stack up because, let’s face it, the internet exists and for anybody who wants to go and find this stuff. It’s there for them to watch.”

David Anderson QC The Government’s independent reviewer of terrorist legislation said that broadcasters should not shield the audience from extremist views. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, said:  “I'm a great believer in the marketplace of ideas, the good ideas drive out the bad.

“It's important to give these people a hard time and to expose to the audience the sort of things they have been saying when they have not been wearing a tie in the television studio, but subject to that, let them be heard. The risk of not letting these people be heard in all their glory is that you sanitise them, and that people don't actually realise how extreme they are.”

For us publicity professionals who strive to give the oxygen of publicity to our clients, it is very frustrating to see how easily publicity is given to Islamic extremists, but in the words of Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Have a great weekend all, and by the way, it’s Andy Pye’sbirthday today in case any of you want to greet him.

Media Moves

Courtesy of FeaturesExec, we bring you news that Austrian publisher Industriemagazin has announced changes in the editorship of the monthly magazine FACTORY. Elisabeth Biedermann will manage the editorial team starting with its June issue. In future the magazine wants to focus more on its main topics production and automation.

L'Embarqué  launched its quarterly digital magazine on 16 May 2013. The 40-page magazine will feature a VIP in each issue as well as additional information about embedded software and hardware. The next issue is scheduled for June 2013.

Anne Katell-Mousset has left trade monthly Process Alimentaire. Katell-Mousset has been replaced by Marjolaine Cerou, who writes about quality, environment and security.

Food processing monthly Process Alimentaire is published by Éditions du Boisbaudry.

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