We have just sent this letter to BBC news reporter Margaret Gilmore, and to Richard Sambrook, director of BBC news:
Dear Margaret Gilmore
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw declared today that Saddam Hussein “had rejected the path of peace” (BBC1 News at Six, December 18, 2002) increasing the likelihood of military action some time next year. The clouds of war are gathering fast over Iraq.
We have noticed a consistent pattern in recent BBC reports, beginning November 7, the day before the latest UN Resolution (1441) on Iraq. The BBC has passed on almost daily reports of terrorist threats based on government sources. To select a few examples from this month at random: there has been a report that sky marshals may soon be guarding against terror attacks on British planes, a report of possible smallpox vaccinations against the threat of a terrorist attack, of the arrest of a Taliban sympathiser by anti-terrorist police, of North Africans arrested on terrorism charges in Edinburgh and London. Tonight (December 18) you delivered the useful information that intelligence services believe that if al-Qaeda were to carry out an attack in the UK, they would probably go for a ‘soft target’ – large public gatherings – using traditional weapons such as cars packed with explosives, etc.
Last month, of course, there was a constant stream of BBC reports warning of attacks on ferries, tube trains, public events; talk of dirty bombs, of terrorist suspects arrested, of preparations to counter germ warfare attacks, of police snipers being distributed to kill suicide bombers, of fighter jets on permanent standby, of plans for the distribution of radiation pills, of plans to evacuate major cities, and so on, almost on a daily basis.
According to a former intelligence officer quoted in the Daily Mirror recently, this is part of a “softening up process,” for a war on Iraq, “a lying game on a huge scale”. (The Daily Mirror, December 3, 2002) A Guardian editorial noted, “it cannot be ruled out that Mr Blair may have political reasons for talking up the sense of unease, in order to help make the case for a war against Iraq that is only backed by one voter in three”. (The Guardian, ‘Gloom in Guildhall,’ November 12, 2002) It is, after all, well understood in Downing Street and Washington that talk of terror threats increases the public’s support for war. The results could be appalling. According to a report in November by the US Medical Association for Prevention of War, the intense bombardment that would undoubtedly precede another Gulf War could cost half a million Iraqi lives. Vincent Hubin, director of Premiere Urgence, the largest foreign aid agency operating in Iraq, warns: “It is not a war they are starting; it’s a slaughter. It will be a catastrophe.”
We believe you are being used to channel propaganda to generate public support for a cynical war against Iraq. It is the job of free and honest journalists to +challenge+ crude attempts to manipulate the public, not merely to pass them on without comment. Your responsibility to the British public and to the people of Iraq is clear. Please consider the moral gravity and responsibility of your position.
David Edwards and David Cromwell
The Editors – Media Lens
We urge all our readers to take five minutes of your time to protest this outrageous and lethal manipulation of British public opinion. Write to Richard Sambrook, either copying the above letter or writing a letter of your own:
Email: [email protected]
and Margaret Gilmore:
Email: [email protected]