Presenting a fabricated claim to an elected councillor, then using his genuine alarm, to feed into the television documentary’s general narrative of a Muslim fundamentalist conspiracy in Tower Hamlets – it can’t happen in Britain, can it? Yet, this is exactly what Andrew Gilligan and the Dispatches programme did. Welcome to Britain – Islamophobia has become mainstream.
A disturbing aspect of that story was the programme producers falsely claimed that Cllr Peter Golds made the original allegation (pre-broadcast letter to IFE). Luckily we’re not, yet, in a tinpot dictatorship (read Middle East) and there are still checks on the powerful forces in society - including the media.
IFE’s complaint to Ofcom was centred around these two points:
a) The programme [01/03/2010] included a false claim that Mr [Lutfur] Ali, the apparently less qualified candidate for the post of assistant chief executive of the Council, had links to the IFE and was appointed as a result of those links.
b) Councillor Golds made his comment about Mr Ali’s alleged links with the IFE on the basis of misinformation given to him by the reporter.
In its response and decision, Ofcom found that the complaint is “of a potentially serious nature” and IFE’s “complaint is not frivolous.” Most damning of all was the declaration that “there appears to be a case to answer of unfair treatment in the programme as broadcast.”
In case Gilligan tries to brush it off, Ofcom helpfully defines frivolous: “Ofcom will normally consider a complaint to be frivolous if in its opinion the complaint is unsustainable. Normally this is because the complainant has not provided reasonable grounds on which to base a complaint of unjust or unfair treatment or unwarranted infringement of privacy and therefore, the complaint is on its face without substance and there is not a case for the relevant broadcaster to answer.”
IFE’s more recent statement on Gilligan’s false claim states that he has “a history of making false claims”. In case of any lingering doubt, here’s more evidence of false claims made by Gilligan personally: Whereas he only falsely claimed, in the Dispatches programme, that “several other people in IFE-linked organisations” were “co-directors” of the Centre for Muslim Affairs - he sexed up this false claim in his Telegraph blog by then falsely claiming that organisation was set up “with a number of IFE and IFE-linked figures” – ie that the other individuals themselves were IFE linked figures.
This is a blatant lie as the public records show, only one member was an IFE or IFE-linked figure (who only verbally accepted an invitation to become a member, didn’t attend a single members’/board meeting, and promptly resigned four months after the company was established)!
Let’s also look at his shoddy journalistic practices (or pseudo-journalism): Here I was, blaming the Dispatches producers for falsely claiming that Cllr Golds made the original accusation – however it seems Gilligan wants to take personal credit for that too. If he says, “I made the programme, and wrote The Sunday Telegraph report”, who am I to deny him this narcissistic indulgence? The real question remains, was it an honest journalistic practice? Furthermore, how is it “ever justifiable to publish claims, without verifying the facts first”, and not even offer the accused an opportunity to respond?
With regards the Dispatches accusation (Lutfur Ali), at least he offered IFE a chance to respond – even though the facts were misrepresented. However, in his more recent false claim (IFE booking a venue in TELCO’s name), he didn’t even bother to ask IFE for comment. Perhaps he considers himself above basic journalistic conventions? Gilligan’s own arrogance will be his undoing.
Gilligan is back to his usual rants on his blog again, you decide if he’s got an obsession with ‘Islamists’ and conspiracies.