The BBC has admitted it was ‘overcautious’ in editing the word ‘Palestine’ from an artist’s performance on Radio 1Xtra and has said it is ‘looking to learn’ from the way it handled the situation.
However, in a ruling released today (31/01/12), the BBC Trust said the final content that was broadcast on the Charlie Sloth Hip Hop M1X – a music programme – was not biased and therefore did not breach its editorial guidelines.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has spent eight months trying to find out why the decision was made to censor the lyrics of a freestyle performance by the rapper, Mic Righteous. Appearing on the Charlie Sloth show in February 2011, he sang: ‘I can scream Free Palestine for my beliefs’.
BBC producers replaced the word ‘Palestine’ with the sound of breaking glass, and the censored performance was repeated in April on the same show.
Amena Saleem, of PSC, said: ‘"In its correspondence with us, the BBC said the word Palestine isn’t offensive, but ‘implying that it is not free is the contentious issue’, and this is why the edit was made.
"Putting aside the BBC’s ignorance of international law, which states unambiguously that Palestine is under occupation, we have argued that this decision clearly shows the BBC’s bias against Palestine. Unable to counter this point, the BBC Trust has moved the goalposts and decided to look at the censored content that was broadcast in February and April 2011.
"And the Trustees have decided that the content from which the word ‘Palestine’ had been edited was not biased against Palestine. This level of manipulation and duplicity would not be out of place in Catch 22."
Ms Saleem added: "It’s a great shame that, in the year of the Arab Spring when the BBC was covering the struggle of millions of people for freedom, it remained wedded to its institutionalised bias against the Palestinians and refused to even recognise the fact of their occupation."
In May 2011, 19 artists, MPs, academics and lawyers signed a letter to the Guardian protesting at the edit as ‘an attack on the principles of free speech’. Signatories included the director Ken Loach, and comedians Mark Thomas, Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steel and Alexei Sayle.
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