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Sunday, 22 February 2009

BBC Told Reporters NOT to cover Gaza

SENIOR BBC Scotland managers were plunged into a new row over trust last week after it emerged the corporation's journalists felt they could not report on a demonstration held inside their own building.

Last month more than 20 demonstrators occupied the foyer of BBC Scotland's Pacific Quay headquarters in protest at the corporation's decision not to broadcast an appeal from the Disasters Emergency Committee on behalf of the people of Gaza. More than 40,000 people complained to the BBC about its decision.

According to one BBC Scotland source, radio journalists were told by editors not to include the demonstration on Radio Scotland's news bulletins - even though other branches of the corporation were reporting the story in full.

The Pacific Quay sit-in was widely reported across the Scottish media. But on the day itself BBC Scotland journalists were initially asked not to film the demonstrators. When one member of staff did shoot footage on a hand-held camera, they were asked not to upload the film onto the BBC's computers, where it could be accessed by other parts of the corporation. When the member of staff eventually did so, the footage was used by BBC News 24, a source said.

After a period of about an hour and half, a full film crew arrived and shot footage of the demonstration.

Peter Murray, deputy leader of the National Union of Journalists' BBC Scotland branch, said the union had received complaints about the incident which it had passed to management.

He said management claimed the decision not to film was made in an attempt to stop others from copying the protesters and to prevent other groups from trying to occupy the BBC Scotland building in the future.

Murray said: "We can't just stop reporting on social unrest because the reports might encourage people to get involved. If you work in journalism it's your job to report these things. We can't go checking with the authorities before you go out on a story."

Murray said BBC managers in London were handed a petition on Friday signed by around 400 staff, protesting at the decision not to show the appeal. More