BBC defends inviting far right leader to speak about Christchurch mosque attack on Newsnight

Interview 'seriously misjudged and irresponsible', say anti-racism campaigners

Chris Baynes
Saturday 16 March 2019 19:40 GMT
Christchurch mosque attacks: What we know so far

A Newsnight interview with a British far-right leader about the New Zealand mosque attack has been defended by the BBC after it was accused of providing “a platform to racist hate”.

Anti-racism campaigners criticised the corporation's flagship news programme for inviting the leader of Generation Identity’s UK branch to discuss the murders of 49 people in Christchurch.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of anti-racism group Hope Not Hate described the interview as “despicable” and called on the BBC to “apologise for the offence many people felt”.

The organisation, which monitors extremism, added: “The fact that Newsnight invited Generation Identity on to discuss the Christchurch terrorist attack, which was inspired in part by GI propaganda, shows the BBC has learned nothing from its elevation of Anjem Choudary before the 7/7 attacks.”

The programme repeatedly gave airtime to the radical Islamist cleric who was jailed for more than five years in 2016 for supporting Isis.

Tanja Bueltmann, an academic specialising in migration, said the decision to interview Generation Identity UK leader Benjamin Jones was “seriously misjudged and irresponsible”.

She tweeted: “Why on earth would you give an essentially unchallenged platform to Generation Identity, letting their UK leader spread their ideas and hate?”

Tom Kibasi, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research think thank, said he planned to file a formal complaint.

He added: ”Would you have given a platform to a leading homophobe on the night of Orlando? A top radical Islamist on the night of the Paris attacks? A prominent anti-Semite on the night of Pittsburgh?”

But a spokesperson for Newsnight said: “It is important we examine and challenge ideologies that drive hate crimes in a wider context, whether they have been distorted, and the connection they may have with any European or UK groups.”

Richard Watson, the BBC journalist who spoke to Mr Jones, introduced the interview by saying Generation Identity "uses similar arguments" to those found in a self-styled manifesto published by Christchurch shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant.

Mr Tarrant's core justification for the attack was the white genocide conspiracy theory, which claims that white people are being “replaced” by non-whites in Western nations.

Generation Identity, a pan-European white nationalist movement, has propagated similar scare stories using tactics such as protests, publicity stunts and social media campaigns.

Last year the group was permanently banned from Facebook for breaching the social media site's policies on extremist content.

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