UN nuclear chief boycotts BBC over Gaza appeal

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The Independent Online

The head of the UN nuclear agency has cancelled interviews with the BBC over its refusal to air a charity appeal for victims of the Gaza conflict.

Mohamed ElBaradei said the BBC had violated "the rules of basic human decency" by not airing the Disasters Emergency Committee's appeal for Gaza, which the broadcaster said would have damaged its impartiality in coverage of the conflict.

Mr ElBaradei's outspoken remarks on the issue is unusual for the head of a UN agency, whose mandate has nothing to do with the Middle East or humanitarian issues, but it is in keeping with his record.

The Egyptian-born head of the International Atomic Energy Agency cancelled scheduled interviews with BBC radio and World Service television because he believes the broadcaster's refusal to air the appeal "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong," according to a statement.

His protest follows growing criticism of the BBC decision, with more than 110 MPs endorsing critical motions. Sky News has joined BBC in deciding not to carry the two-minute appeal, but much of the criticism has focused on the BBC because of its publicly funded status. More than 15,000 members of the public have lodged complaints over the ban.

The BBC said the network regretted Mr ElBaradei's decision. "Our audiences around the world remain interested in what he has to say about a range of topics and we hope he will do an interview at another time," it said.

Gordon Brown refused to intervene in the controversy, telling MPs yesterday: "It is not for us to interfere with the independence of the BBC and of Sky. But I can say this: we are making the appeal as widely known as we can through our own information services."

Despite the lack of exposure on BBC and Sky News, the aid agencies behind the appeal say they have so far raised £1m for Palestinians in Gaza.

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