Archive for April, 2014

woman_chased

Dear all,

I promised you had probably heard the last from me on these matters. However, Near FM had a very different idea. They decided to censor the opinions of a Palestinian woman and her family from tonight’s documentary episode of ‘Understanding Irish Muslims’ on the basis that this family conversation constitutes ‘current affairs and news’.

They claim the BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) regulations are making them do it. Their interpretation of these regulations differs to mine as I will explain below.

Tonight’s episode featured Muslims who speak Irish, play GAA and rugby as well as talking to Muslims in their homes and eating delicious Turkish and Arabic food! Yum! 🙂 Very light and easy going topics I think you’ll agree.

In so doing, I spoke to a Palestinian and a Turkish family. The Palestinian family spoke about their homeland and how they feel about Palestine and Israel. They did so very briefly and in a casual way, in their own front sitting-room and over a plate of cakes, buns and tea. Even Fluffy the cat was there!:-)

Of all the episodes in this documentary, the only one that could be considered ‘current affairs’ would be the feature on the Arab Spring. Yet the BAI had no objection to this when it was submitted for their approval back in February 2013.

Well apparently this is not current affairs and news. They believe a family discussion over tea and scones is current affairs & news.

Just this morning (some hours before the final episode was to go live) Near FM pulled out a BAI document I had never seen before. A document that Near FM claims to mean that “The BAI Contract does not allow for current affairs within Sound & Vision programming.”

This document quite clearly states that the BAI will not fund “Programmes produced primarily for news or current affairs” (Section 4.5 E) This programme is not primarily for news or current affairs. Furthermore the piece that Near FM find objectionable is a mere 0:45 second recording out of a total of 2 hours.

Why Near did not advise me of this before, despite having tonight’s episode for 3 weeks, is difficult to understand.

Make your own minds up on this.

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israeli-censorship

“The Committee is disappointed that although you had been informed of current policies regarding this topic that you did not contact us to indicate that you wished to do an interview on this subject. We would remind you that if you wish to cover this topic you must first contact us. The Committee takes this very seriously and considers it a breach of Nearfm broadcast regulations. Any further breaches of this kind will be referred to the Coordinating Committee for their consideration, which could lead to disciplinary action.”

This was the response of Near FM to a presenter who interviewed me about “this topic” – Palestine and Israel – in January this year. A bizarre response to a balanced interview. And a response reserved solely for those who dare speak about “this topic”.

When the Israeli Embassy complained about my 26 March 2013 show ‘International Politics’, which featured ‘Operation Cast Lead’ (an armed attack on the Gaza Strip by Israel) Near FM were supportive. They even brought me on an all expenses paid trip to the south of France.

In upholding the Israeli complaint Near FM were ordered by the BAI (the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland – broadcasting regulator) to read out an apology before my next show on 6 November 2013. I requested a copy of this apology from Near FM, some days before 6 November, yet Near FM did not provide me with one.

Despite being a community volunteer journalist with no experience of dealing with such matters, Near FM did not provide the necessary training. The support had ended.

Ten minutes before going on air, on 6 November, I finally heard their apology in a studio full of people, most of whom I had never met before.

A political comedy character called Azizi Bin Habeebi was a guest on that show. In a comedic style, he expressed outrage at Near FM’s apology. He called the apology “garbage” that “stank the whole office”. I claimed that in endorsing the views of experts, on 26 March, I wasn’t “…going too far wrong…”.

The remainder of our discussion was directed at the injustice that exists in Palestine at the hands of the Israelis. As a responsible journalist that is my job.  It is my job to give a voice to the unheard. It is also therefore my job, to be imbalanced against any oppressor.

To begin with Near FM did not seem perturbed by this broadcast. However, 25 days later they decided to publicly disown me. They had informed the Sunday Times of my suspension before me.

Their decision to suspend me was also taken in the middle of an internal process where, matters pertaining to the 6 November broadcast, were being resolved. They ignored this process and have never explained why.

Time after time I asked for a full explanation for my suspension. Time after time I met with a wall of silence. They had no idea what was going on as they initially declared that part of the reason for my suspension was the show on 26 March.

As it proved impossible to get answers to simple questions I raised a formal grievance. In fact I raised three. None of my grievances were heard.

In late January 2014 they finally lifted the suspension of me as a volunteer yet did not lift the suspension of my show. No clear explanation was given for lifting my suspension as a volunteer. I can only speculate as to whether it was in some way connected to the BAI funded radio documentary I was working on.

‘International Politics’ was subsequently terminated in February 2014 as I refused to accept their censorship of the Palestinian issue. A show that interviewed notable experts in Irish and international politics. My appeal was rejected in March 2014.

The termination of ‘International Politics’ was never fully explained nor were the questions I raised during the appeal answered in any way. Likewise the banning of my interview with a Palestinian Human Rights activist was not explained.

Sometimes I wonder if I had just complied, as once advised, to “…do a pro-Israeli piece…” and simply cover “…Palestinian art…” would I still be on air?

Management at Near FM have ruled criticism of Israel and discussion of the Palestinian issue as out of bounds. They are prepared to discipline any community volunteer that dare discuss “this topic”.

It is tragic that a radio station which has done so much for its local community would fail to do what community media is meant to do – give a voice to the unheard. Near FM have decided they want programming that will not ruffle any feathers or upset anybody on ‘this topic’.

Nobody can claim ignorance on Palestine. Countless documentaries, articles and books on “this topic” are easily accessible. The Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Gaza Action Ireland, Sadaka and others campaign tirelessly to publicise it. Yet society just looks on.

Let’s hope Near FM do not stay with the on-lookers and reverse their policy of censorship and disciplinary action for those who dare touch “this topic”.