'Undercover Mosque' makers to sue police for libel

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The Independent Online

Channel 4 said yesterday it would pursue a libel claim against West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for statements made following the broadcast of an investigative documentary on British Muslims.

The Dispatches programme, "Undercover Mosque", which was shown in January last year, used hidden cameras to expose supposed Islamic extremism in British mosques. It featured preachers speaking on the condemnation of non-Muslims, the intellectual inferiority of women, and calling for the murder of Jews and homosexuals.

After the programme was broadcast West Midlands Police launched an investigation which concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the speakers.

Channel 4 claimed yesterday that comments by West Midlands Police and the CPS about the programme were libellous. In a statement on behalf of the Dispatches editor, Kevin Sutcliffe, and Hardcash Productions it said libel proceedings had been started. "The statements made by both West Midlands Police and the CPS were completely unfounded and seriously damaging to the reputation of the programme makers," it said. "We fully support this action as we feel that it is the only way to vindicate their reputations and to prove this was a responsible piece of public interest journalism."

West Midlands Police approached Ofcom in August last year with accusations that the programme misrepresented the mosques involved and might "undermine community cohesion". They alleged the film had been edited in a misleading way.

Ofcom rejected the claim in November, saying it was "a legitimate investigation" that had "uncovered matters of important public interest".

The watchdog also said there was "no evidence that [Channel 4] had misled the audience" and that "the broadcaster had accurately represented the material".

Channel 4, which said any damages would go to charity, released a separate statement on behalf of Hardcash Productions. It said: "We feel the only way to set the record straight once and for all is to pursue this matter through a libel action."

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