Right-wing research group threatens to sue 'Newsnight'
Saturday 15 December 2007
A right-wing think-tank whose research came under fire on BBC2's Newsnight has threatened legal action against the current affairs programme.
When the Policy Exchange, which has close links with the Conservative Party, released a report entitled The Hijacking Of British Mosques in October the issue received widespread coverage.
But a Newsnight investigation claimed there were inconsistencies in the evidence used in the report. It called into question an allegation that a quarter of the 100 mosques visited by a research team for Policy Exchange were selling extremist literature.
Following the report, aired on Wednesday night, Policy Exchange issued a statement calling Newsnight's broadcast "libellous and perverse". It added it was "in legal consultations about action in this matter".
Researchers hired by the Policy Exchange found that 25 mosques were selling material that fostered extremism. Receipts from book purchases made by the undercover researchers were then given to Newsnight to aid coverage of the story. But, upon examination of the receipts, Newsnight researchers became wary.
The programme claimed that some of the handwriting on the receipts had been written by the same person despite the think-tank purporting they came from separate mosques.
Some slips even featured the wrong address for the mosque that was supposed to have issued them, Newsnight said. And when the programme visited some of the mosques in question, they filmed religious leaders claiming never to have seen the receipts or the books that were supposed to be sold from there.
The report, on Wednesday, was followed by a heated exchange between the presenter, Jeremy Paxman, and Dean Godson, research director at Policy Exchange.
Mr Godson was defensive from the outset. "We're very confident in all of this", he said. "This remains the most important report that's ever been produced on Islamic literature in this country".
But Mr Paxman became more accusatory. "You are claiming that you had evidence that these books had been bought in these mosques, and that evidence is quite clearly, in expert opinion, fabricated," he said.
Rounding on the programme and its editor, Peter Barron, Mr Godson concluded: "The big problem is Newsnight".
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