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BBC censorship faces High Court challenge



"Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic missionary group behind the £75 million Abbey Mills mosque, opposes inter-faith dialogue and preaches that non-Muslims are an evil and corrupting influence. One of its British advocates has said that it aims to rescue Muslims from the culture and civilisation of Jews and Christians by creating 'such hatred for their ways as human beings have for urine and excreta'".

How very civil of them.

In response, Christian Choice voiced opposition to the building of this huge mosque, which would be funded by Saudi dollars and constructed next to the site of the 2012 Olympics. It produced a short election broadcast for airing prior to Thursday's local elections. The BBC censored the broadcast.

The BBC now faces a challenge to its censorship. To defend freedom of speech Christian Choice has just taken the broadcaster to the Royal Courts of Justice.

Was the BBC afraid of the libel law? (The law was critiqued today in the Wall Street Journal, which does not seem to recognize that the law was significantly altered in 2006, in a judgement in favour of the Journal - Jameel v. Wall Street Journal Europe.)

In 2006, Britain's High Court ruled for the first time that journalists have the right to publish allegations about public figures, as long as their reporting is responsible and in the public interest. The Law Lords were unanimous in their decision.

It seems unlikely, then, that fear of libel was part of the BBC decision, particularly as the election material was not libellous. It will be interesting to follow the case and learn exactly why the BBC censored the election material of Christian Choice.

We wrote that Dicey thought the real upholders of liberty in Britain were judges. Defenders of British liberty today are increasingly turning to the courts.

We hope they are successful. But history shows it will take more than the courts to defend liberty.