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Posts Tagged ‘panorama whistleblower’

This is a guest post by John Ware, the BBC Panorama reporter who fronted the Mayor and Our Money programme on March 31. This is the first proper response by the Panorama team to some of the accusations and smears directed towards them from senior officers and politicians in the town hall, both before the programme and since.

 

Lutfur-Rahman-and-John-WareThe former leader of Tower Hamlets Professor Michael Keith observes that the Mayor’s “popularity…speaks more to the strengths of community networks, Sylheti ties and the mobilising forces of his political machine.”

It is striking just how much The Facts have become flattened in this process – and how tenuous has been the relationship to truth in some notable cases.

Having now observed the sectarian politics of Tower Hamlets at close quarters, it seems to me that some of the poison might be drawn if those in positions of responsibility had a more scrupulous regard for facts and truth.

Yesterday, Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s adviser, Kazim Zaidi wrote on this blog:

“And then there was Panorama, aired just two weeks before the purdah period. Panorama claimed dodgy dealings with grants; it cited the Mayor’s car as an example of his profligacy.”

We made no mention of the Mayor’s car.

And:

“.. and highlighted his apparent reluctance to attend scrutiny meetings..”

What we actually highlighted was the Mayor’s failure to answer questions in the council’s key scrutiny forum: Overview and Scrutiny. O&S minutes show this to be a fact.

The Mayor also seems to have been reluctant to attend O&S. Since the Mayor took office, we could find records of only four attendances: two as a non-speaking attendee, and two when he gave a verbal presentation on his work.

And:

“…and answering questions in council, failing to point out that Rahman has attended more scrutiny sessions and answered more questions in council than his Labour counterparts in Newham and Lewisham.”

Mr Zaidi cites only “attendance” in respect of Overview & Scrutiny – presumably because he knows that the pertinent issue here is not attendance but willingness to answer questions.

And, as my commentary said:

“…In the last year Mayor Rahman is the only one out of all England’s 15 directly elected Mayors not to have answered questions at O & S.”

According to Newham Council, its Mayor “attended two overview and scrutiny meetings in the last 12 months and has answered questions at both meetings”; and according to Lewisham Council, its Mayor attended “on 20 June 2013” where there were “informal questions”.

The marked reluctance of the Mayor to answer questions at Overview and Scrutiny was especially relevant to our examination of his record on governance. After all, in firing the opening shots of the election campaign, the Mayor claimed to uphold the “highest standards of probity and transparency”.

And:

“As for the rest, police found ‘no new credible evidence’ of fraud……”

As for the “rest”? Once again, as Mr Zaidi knows, we made no allegation against the Mayor of criminality or fraud in the programme. Like the Mayor and the Council, Mr Zaidi has conflated the Metropolitan Police statement of 16 April that there was “no credible evidence” of fraud or criminality in Panorama files (which the DCLG sent to the Met Police) with the quite separate contents of the broadcast Panorama programme.

The Police statement was not, as the Council’s misleading statement said, “in relation to recent allegations made in the BBC Panorama programme”, thereby quite wrongly implying that the Police had cleared the Mayor of fraud allegations “in the Panorama programme”.

The Mayor, the Council and Mr Zaidi know perfectly well that no allegations of fraud or of criminality were made against the Mayor personally by the BBC, nor in our files.

However, as the council also very well knew, Panorama’s files DID contain evidence that raised allegations of fraud in respect of a youth organisation that had been grant funded. The reason the Police did not attribute this to Panorama was because the council – not Panorama – had referred the case to the CID at Tower Hamlets.

What the council did not say, however, was that they only referred the case to the Police just days after we had submitted 25 very detailed questions to them about the alleged fraud, thus alerting them to the possibility the programme might disclose the fact that the council had known about the case for months – but not referred it to the police.

Our attempts to persuade the Council to correct the misleading impression from their partial statement at the height of the election campaign were ignored by the Council – the same Council which spent tens of thousands of taxpayers’ money trying to stop the BBC from broadcasting the programme in the first place by claiming it would “reduce the chances of a free fair and credible election.”

The BBC’s duty was not only to be fair, factual and impartial to the politicians contesting the election – but also to inform the electorate. Judging by the record turnout – which pushed up both the Mayor’s vote and Labour’s – the evidence suggests that far from undermining democracy the BBC might actually have helped reinvigorate it.

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The so-called Panorama “whistleblower”, who is a suspect in a criminal investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office into breaches of the Data Protection Act, offered us more of her coherent thoughts last night. The best I can say is that I have no idea how she got through journalism college.

Here it is:

In my last blog I had highlighted some key experiences that I had while being involved in the Panorama programme The Mayor and Our Money and after that I remained silent so that it can allow the people of Tower Hamlets (considering it affects them) to decide their opinion upon my action. Therefore I would like to firstly thank all of those people who have allowed their minds to be open and actually understand the situation before pouncing on me and judging me. So Thank you.

Now, I have read many of the reports relating to the Panorama programme, some of which are worthwhile reading and some of which are just pure rubbish. Reading them made me question the world we live in, where lies are so easily believed yet the truth has to be fought out. Amazing isn’t it, reminds me of a quote by John Lennon,’we live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight’.

Most of the negative portrayal obviously is coming from the BBC side, for example Ted Jeory and even John Ware took time out to write about me making so called ‘false claims’. But what is it that they are trying to establish? What is it that they are trying to make me feel? Guilt? Are they trying to question my own mind into making me believe that what I did was wrong? Well I’m afraid I am going to have to disappoint them there because even now I still stand by what I did and still believe that the programme was biased and did have racial undertones. Just because the programme that was broadcast to the public was narrowed down and the content was drastically changed, the original programme which I had the dossier to had negative references to the Bengali community such as taking the ‘mickey’ out of the way Bengali people spoke English.

Moving on, my lawyers still have not received any news from the BBC, Films of Record or the ICO so why does Ted Jeory seem to think that there is a criminal investigation under way against me? That annoyed me, how about Mr Ted Jeory you stop poking your nose in, stop trying to be a ‘little gossip’ and stop manipulating the minds of your readers and let the ICO do their job and let them decide the action they feel fair against me. But I have to question, how will the ICO investigate the minds of the people associated with this programme? How will the ICO stop the programme makers racial thoughts? How will the ICO experience what I experienced while working there? ‘It seems that the safest opinion in this world is to have no opinion. Why? Because truth changes. It plays hide and seek. The nearest you can come to an informed judgement would require a serious investigation, digging in archives, interviewing eye-witnesses. What normal citizen has time for that? So we leave it up to journalists, historians, politicians. And the result is…CHAOS.

The statement in Mr Jeory’s latest blog, ‘she lasted four days before the team waved goodbye to her’, made me chuckle because firstly, it is five days and secondly I had sent an email to a member of the team stating ‘no thanks’. Ted Jeory, if you are going to be closed minded would you mind being closed mind aswell?

Just in case these ‘journalists’ assume I am ‘lying’,here is a screen-shot of the email from ME to the team:

no thanks

 

As for the ICO, I will definitely co operate with them once I hear something from them and as for me handing over the dossier, I perhaps understood the implications that it may have on me but I could not have consciously allowed such biased programme to go ahead and fill the mind of the public with filth and hatred towards brown skin, because remember, we are not born racist. It is the idea of fear that always works to influence the population. This is were racism starts and as I am aware ‘the media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent and that is power, because they control the mind of the masses’.

My thoughts about the Bengali sources is that they were traitors. Any Bengali person who speaks negatively or belittles the Bengali people in my eyes are traitors, just like during our liberation war in 1971 some fellow Bengali people lost their way and sold themselves to the rival army, these so called ‘sources’ (all of them who have some kind of hidden agenda against Lutfur Raman) are similar to them and have made the Bengali community look incompetent.

Finally, to me all this is propaganda. For a start it is not surprising to see who BBC or Films of record chose to first disclose my actions, Mr Ted Jeory, who ‘surprisingly’ seems to be married to a Bengali woman. My guess is that they thought people will be dormant and accept his views because ‘surely’ he cannot be racist when his own wife is of Bengali origin. Funny that, because Mr Jeory being married to a Bengali cultured woman you must have an idea of our Bengali culture. You must understand that many Bengali’s are very patriotic because Bangladesh is a country made by the blood of our freedom fighters. Shouldn’t you have been a little more sensitive in your approach instead of siding with ‘your friends’.Considering you have ‘so much’ to write about and you are almost ‘like neutral’ shouldn’t you have been the first person to come to me and asked what it was about the content of the programme that I found was insulting to the Bengali community for me to take such a step? But did you? No. Double standards is it?

 

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As I have said before I belong to no political party, I do not even live in Tower Hamlets therefore it does not affect me as to who becomes the next Mayor of Tower Hamlets but I must say the way Mr Jeory writes so critically of Lutfur Rahman constantly, I sympathise with Mr Rahman to see what abuse and unfair portrayal he has to put up with. But I guess Lutfur Rahman is better than that to pay any attention to narrow minded people, no wonder he has been able to make such big improvements in Tower Hamlets. Makes me believe in is motto, ‘One Tower Hamlets’. Lastly I could not help but be amused at the statement, ‘ The characters now act like dim kids in a playground; back then it was proper adult hooliganism ‘,well perhaps if journalists like Ted Jeory stopped behaving like spoilt snobby brats, who seem to dictate,making outrageous allegations,spreading gossip and interfering these ‘dim kids’ maybe can have more time to actually get on with their jobs instead of wasting time trying to defend themselves.

Impressive isn’t it? I particularly like the last sentence, that journalists shouldn’t “interfere” with the way politicians conduct themselves. This from a so-called “journalist”. Would love to know her tutor’s thoughts.

As for the snide slurs on my understanding of my wife’s culture and the assertion that any Bengali who dares to criticise another Bengali is somehow a traitor, well….what planet? Ms So-called “Whistleblower”, have a read of this. It’s an account of my mother-in-law’s life. As you’ll see, she had a bit more experience of the 1971 liberation war than you did. And of hard core racism in the Seventies. And of genuine traitors.

And let’s put it this way, I’m fairly certain she’d give you a clip round the backside with her trusty walking stick right now.

Husna Matin

 

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