Amnesty's YouTube channel sparks row by suggesting Obama backs torture


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The Independent US

Amnesty International has courted controversy by launching a satirical video channel with a "cut-up" film which suggests that President Barack Obama endorses torture.

The human rights organisation has created a YouTube channel, Amnesty TV, with comedy sketches, stunts, news and opinion. The films are made by a team including Mike Bradley, the producer of the BBC's Screenwipe, and Chris Atkins, director of Starsuckers, a documentary in which tabloid newspapers were convinced to print faked showbusiness stories.

The latest "video magazine" features a clip by Cassetteboy, an internet film-maker notorious for re-editing scenes from The Apprentice and Dragon's Den for satirical effect.

The clip uses an interview in which President Obama is asked why he did not close the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. His words are "cut up" to make him endorse torture. A pledge to shut the camp was a "token gesture", he says. The clip ends with a "stop torture" message.

Some YouTube viewers said they found the video inappropriate. One commentator said any groups that aimed "to be respectable arbiters of information should try to be accurate".

Amnesty set up its TV channel to coincide with its 50th anniversary, aiming to "inform, educate and to mobilise" support. The 15-minute programme has an appearance from Vanessa Redgrave and a sketch featuring Misery Bear, where a toy bear is waterboarded after tweeting criticism of the Government. Neil Boorman, editor of Amnesty TV, said: "We believe it is perfectly legitimate to point out that Obama said he was going to close Guantanamo within a year and he hasn't."

Mr Boorman, who published the satirical magazine Shoreditch Twat, said Amnesty was tapping into internet stars like Cassetteboy and Misery Bear. Cassetteboy, who guards his anonymity, said: "It's obvious that the [Obama] clip was edited, so there was no attempt to hoodwink the audience."

He said manipulating politicians' words could be a powerful technique because they often dodged tough questions, so to hear them speak plainly and truthfully was refreshing. "If politicians really were that straightforward, the world would be a better place ... although Cassetteboy would be out of a job," he added.

Amnesty has been linked to comedy since John Cleese's Secret Policeman's Ball revue in 1979. A Stand Up For Freedom show, featuring Russell Kane, is staged at Edinburgh Festival next week.