“The BBC was accused last night of operating double standards over its suspension of Robert Kilroy-Silk for his comments about Arabs while it continues to use a contributor who has called for Israelis to be killed.” This from the Telegraph, with thanks to filtrat.
“Tom Paulin, the poet and Oxford don, has continued to be a regular contributor to BBC2’s Newsnight Review arts programme, despite being quoted in an Egyptian newspaper as saying that Jews living in the Israeli-occupied territories were ‘Nazis’ who should be ‘shot dead’. Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP, said he found it hard to understand why the BBC had moved against Mr Kilroy-Silk but had not taken any action against Mr Paulin.
“‘I am not defending anything Mr Kilroy-Silk has said, but I was greatly upset by what Mr Paulin said, and I think the rules should apply to people equally,’ said Mr Dismore. ‘Mr Paulin said awful things about Israel and Jewish people. He should have been kept off BBC screens while his own comments were investigated. I was surprised that that did not happen. It smacks of double standards on the part of the BBC.’
“Mr Paulin made his comments in the Egyptian weekly newspaper Al-Ahram almost two years ago, saying that US-born settlers in the occupied territories should be shot dead. ‘I think they are Nazis, racists. I feel nothing but hatred for them,’ he said, adding: ‘I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all.’
“Within days of the article appearing, a number of academic institutions, including Harvard, cancelled planned readings by the poet. The BBC, however, did not seek to remove him from Newsnight Review. Mr Paulin subsequently denied accusations of anti-Semitism.
“By contrast, Mr Kilroy-Silk, a former Labour MP, was suspended by the BBC on Friday, five days after he wrote an article in the Sunday Express. He described Arabs as ‘suicide bombers, limb amputators and women repressors’, and said they contributed nothing useful to the world — comments that outraged race campaigners and some Muslims and for which he later apologised.
“The corporation said it was suspending his BBC1 weekday morning chat show, Kilroy, until it had ‘investigated the matter fully’.
“A number of MPs criticised the decisions yesterday, accusing the BBC of censorship. Richard Shepherd, a Tory MP who has been a friend of Mr Kilroy-Silk since their student days at the London School of Economics, urged the BBC to draw a line under the affair now that broadcaster had publicly apologised. ‘Robert is a decent and honourable person with a passionate belief in the values of free speech,’ said Mr Shepherd. ‘He’s also a polemicist and he raises issues that matter to him and are well within our national concept of freedom of expression. It is important to remember that we are a free society because we have free speech. What is happening to Britain? There was a time when things like this would be shrugged off. I think the reaction to the column brings into disrepute some major organisations: the BBC, the Commission for Racial Equality, which all felt the need to complain, and the Metropolitan Police, which feels the need to investigate.’
“Ann Widdecombe, the former Conservative home office minister, said Mr Kilroy-Silk had been unfortunate in his use of language, but she insisted that the BBC had no right to censor free speech. ‘There is no doubt that some of his phraseology is over the top. You cannot say we owe the Arabs nothing. We owe them a great deal in terms of our prosperity,’ she said. ‘But I do agree with some of the other points he made. It’s quite reasonable for him to voice his opinions on the treatment of women and practices such as the severing of limbs. It is quite proper to speak out against such practices. I think that the BBC has crossed the line and engaged in active censorship. The key point to remember is that he did not make these comments on a BBC programme and that we have a law in this country that can deal with comments likely to stir up racial hatred. This is not an issue for the BBC.’
“Gerald Kaufman, the Labour chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said that while he could not support the comments made by Mr Kilroy-Silk, he felt that the ex-MP was being made a scapegoat by a BBC desperate to prove its piety. He said: ‘The BBC has been found lacking again in the way it approaches its responsibilities as a public service broadcaster. The action taken has less to do with the column itself and more to do with the fallout from the Hutton inquiry. They are in a rush to demonstrate their own piety. They should have made it clear to people long ago that they can be BBC personalities or journalists – but not both.’
“Others, however, refused to support the ex-MP. Robert Marshall-Andrews, the Labour MP, said: ‘I think it is the most loathsome and illiterate article I have ever read in a British newspaper. The only conceivable purpose is to create ignorance and prejudice. I, and people in my section of the Labour Party, hope that Tony Blair will realise that we must not accept any more support from Richard Desmond, the proprietor of the Express. It may well be bordering on criminality.’
“A BBC official said the corporation was examining Mr Kilroy-Silk’s case on its own merits and did not want to be drawn into making comparisons with Mr Paulin. She admitted that it was unclear whether the broadcaster’s column in the Sunday Express had been subjected to regular BBC vetting. ‘That is why we are having an investigation,’ she said.”
Meanwhile, Kilroy-Silk himself has a few words for the BBC. According to CNN, “British talkshow host Robert Kilroy-Silk has hit out at the BBC for not supporting him in a row over an article in which he called Arabs ‘suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors.’
“The BBC has axed his morning half-hour show pending an inquiry but Kilroy-Silk accused his bosses of ‘giving way’ to a lobby demanding his resignation. He said he had hoped the corporation would have ‘kept the programme going and dealt with the criticisms.’ . . .
“The head of the Commission for Racial Equality Monday accused Kilroy-Silk of posing as a ’24-carat martyr’ and called for him to issue an apology for his article. CRE chairman Trevor Phillips told the UK’s Press Association he did not believe the BBC presenter was a racist, but that he was risking his reputation by trying to ‘defend the indefensible.’ He said Kilroy-Silk should ‘learn something about Muslims and Arabs’ and use some of his ‘vast earnings’ to support a Muslim charity as recompense for his remarks. Britain is home to about 1.8 million Muslims, many of them second and third generation descendants of immigrants from Britain’s former colonies.
“Kilroy-Silk, whose daytime chat show has 1.2 million viewers, has expressed ‘very deep regret’ over the ‘great distress and offence’ the column had clearly caused. . . . Amid a welter of mainly hostile media comment, Kilroy-Silk defended himself in an interview with this week’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, asserting his right to speak his mind.
“‘If I am not allowed to say that there are Arab states that are evil, despotic and treat women abominably, if I am not allowed to say that, which I know to be a fact, then what can I say?’
“The decision by the publicly funded BBC, which is trying to protect its reputation for impartiality by stopping staff from writing controversial freelance articles, to suspend Kilroy-Silk’s show has itself drawn criticism. ‘Our tradition of free speech is precious and we shouldn’t lose sight of that,’ said Tory opposition leader Michael Howard.”