BBC apologises for ‘what is the right punishment for blasphemy?’ tweet

Broadcaster says it never intended to imply blasphemy should be punished and said the tweet was poorly worded

BBC Asia has apologised after it posted the question what is the right punishment for blasphemy? on its Asian Network Twitter account.

The tweet was intended to promote a debate about about blasphemy on social media in Pakistan with presenter Shazia Awan.

In an apology, the network said it never intended to imply that blasphemy should be punished and said the tweet was poorly worded.

BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork)

Apologies for poorly worded question from #AsianNetwork yday. Q was in context of Pak asking FB to help we shd have made that clear 1/2

March 18, 2017

BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork)

We never intend to imply Blasphemy should be punished. Provocative question that got it wrong 2/2

March 18, 2017

It emerged this week that Pakistan has asked Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under the countrys blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said an official in Pakistans Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.

The BBCs tweet prompted anger and disbelief on social media. Human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie said the tweet was disgraceful.

Maryam Namazie (@MaryamNamazie)

Disgraceful that @bbcasiannetwork @ShaziaAwan would ask what ‘punishment’ should be for blasphemy. You know people get killed for it.

March 17, 2017

Malcolm Wood (@Askrigglad)

@BBCNews We could inform the BBC’s Asian Network there should be NO punishment for blasphemy. We’re not living in the Middle Ages

March 18, 2017

Clive Norman (@Clive752)

@bbcasiannetwork The fact that it appears that BBC Asian network has not roundly condemned punishment for blasphemy. One has to conclude you support it!!

March 18, 2017

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Parody of Robert Kelly’s BBC interview imagines how a woman would have coped

Comedy duo produce spoof in which a female interviewee feeds her child, cleans a toilet, cooks dinner and defuses a bomb

A video has emerged parodying the BBCs viral hit which featured a professor interrupted by his children during a live interview, re-imagining how the scene would have unfolded if a woman had been in the hot-seat.

Last week the video of university professor Robert Kelly became world-famous after his four-year-old daughter Marion barged into the room mid-interview, followed by his eight-month-old son James and finally his panicked wife Jung-a Kim.

The New Zealand comedy show Jono and Ben released their spoof on Thursday night, with a woman as the interviewee. The Facebook video has been watched 32m times.

During the one-minute clip the woman is first interrupted by a young child in a yellow jumper. She seamlessly continues answering complex political questions about South Korea while pulling the child onto her lap and feeding her a bottle.

Next, a baby totters into the room with a walker, and the woman continues answering questions, her eyes never leaving the camera, whilst holding the child in her lap, and entertaining the baby with a rattling ball.

As the child wanders out of the room the mother reaches off-camera and pulls out a roast chicken dinner, sniffing it to check if it is ready.

The BBC interviewer observes You do look rather busy there, we can reschedule … but the woman ignores him, reaching for a shirt to de-lint while she speaks, and, a moment later, scrubbing a toilet bowl that appears on her left.

The interview continues as a bomb squad in flak-jackets burst into the room, and the woman defuses a bomb; Oh my god, is that a bomb? asks the interviewer.

As the interview draws to a close a man in bare feet speaking in a broad New Zealand accent rushes into the study, flapping a sock at the womans back.

I cant find my missing sock, I have looked everywhere, I have looked in the sock drawer! he says, panicked.

The BBC presenter thanks the woman for her time, calling the interview interesting. The woman smiles warmly, her eyes finally leaving the camera. OK, lets find this sock then! she says cheerfully.

The Jono and Ben version of the video was greeted with a decidedly mixed response. Some female commentators called the video hilarious and said it was an accurate and amusing reflection of a working mothers life. However many others, both male and female, labelled the parody sexist and said it was a classic example of man-bashing.

The original video became a global hit, making Kellys family overnight internet stars.

While the candid video was mostly embraced as a charming and spontaneous moment of family life interrupting a professional interview, some viewers were critical of the professors reaction, saying he should have responded to his children instead of ignoring them.

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Denis Thatcher wrote to BBC over ‘disgraceful and libellous’ satire

Never in the history of public broadcasting has so foul a libel been published against anyone, PMs husband claimed

A satirical story broadcast on BBC Radio 4s Today programme about Margaret Thatcher legalising hard drugs prompted her loyal husband, Denis, to savage the corporation in a furious private letter to the chair of the governors.

The prime minister herself took legal advice about the mini-saga, entitled Thatcherism: The Final Solution, which was broadcast on Radio 4 in mid-January 1988, and considered whether she should instruct lawyers to sue for defamation, files released to the National Archives in Kew on Thursday reveal.

The item had been written by a listener, Vincent Hill, in a competition for mini-sagas stories composed in no more than 50 words. In an exaggerated parody of Tory free-market economics, he imagined the political consequences of a libertarian approach to heroin.

The compressed story read: Ingenious: Individual choice must be paramount. With growing confidence she legalised hard drugs. Prices fell sharply. Legitimate outlets replaced bankrupt drug syndicates. Crime figures plunged. Crematorium shares surged. City populations thinned as the weak spirited succumbed. Unemployment vanished. Only the worthiest survived. Nobody could complain. The unfit died of freedom.

Thatchers principal private secretary, Nigel Wicks, wrote to the law officers department seeking advice. He asked whether the tale was defamatory. It is not the prime ministers normal practice, or indeed wish, to send solicitors letters to media organisations which issue statements which defame her, he explained. But I wonder whether this item might not be an exception to the PMs normal practice?

Thatchers office was told by the law officers department at the Royal Courts of Justice that the story was indeed libellous. The offending passages included: The Final Solution, in its inherent connotation; the unfit died of freedom, with its innuendo of intention to secure the death of the unfit; crematorium shares surged, which was said to be particularly revolting in its innuendo that this was a consequence desired by the prime minister ; and She legalised hard drugs, which personalises her as the target for the sting and not mere Thatcherism.

The prime minister evidently decided not to pursue legal action. Her private secretary recorded that she did not want to consult lawyers who specialised in defamation.

But the matter did not end there. On 18 January, her husband, using his own 10 Downing Street stationery, dispatched a sternly worded letter to Marmaduke Hussey, who was chairman of the BBCs board of governors.

Dear Duke, Mr Thatcher wrote. With deference may I ask you to study the enclosed manuscript (extract) of the Radio 4 Today programme. The extent and depth of political bias in the BBC is a matter of opinion, but this is a disgrace by any standard, however low.

I cannot believe that the management of a public broadcasting system can continue to employ a producer who publishes so foul and deliberate an untruth against anyone or on such a subject. Surely such gross professional misconduct can neither be excused or condoned? He signed it: Regards to you both, Yours ever, Denis.

Denis Thatcher, who was normally careful to keep out of public affairs, rarely appears in the prime ministerial files. Wicks, the private secretary, however, noted that Mr Thatcher had crossed Husseys name off a guest list for a public reception a few days later.

The civil servant suggested that Hussey should be invited so that the prime minster could talk to him about the disgraceful episode. You could then have a quiet word with him about the mini-saga after the reception, he suggested.

But the note was returned with a comment from Denis, explaining his action. I only crossed out [his name] because I did not think a general reception is (a) suitable for Duke [because he used a stick and might have had difficulty standing for a long time] (b) important enough. I did discuss with PM.

Denis Thatcher explained that he had already privately written to Hussey. Never in the history of public broadcasting, he added, has so foul a libel been published against ANYONE let alone a prime minister.

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