BBC insists it is not Shamima Begum’s ‘useful idiot’ | UK | News

The BBC denies handing Islamic State bride Shamima Begum an “unchallenged platform”. It comes after a leading strategist branded broadcasters “useful ­idiots” for giving her airtime.

A court judgment last week saw Begum’s bid to restore her British citizenship fail.

During the case MI5 said many of Begum’s “later interviews were self-serving and an attempt to obtain favourable media coverage in the run-up to this appeal”.

The BBC broadcast a lengthy podcast, I’m Not A Monster, over recent weeks, as well as a feature-length BBC Two documentary on her fight to return to the UK.

Together, the programmes drew 387 complaints.

Following MI5’s comments, the BBC podcast team was asked if it was being exploited.

A spokesperson said: “This is not a platform for Shamima Begum to give her unchallenged story. This is a robust investigation into who she really is and what she really did.

“We encourage people to listen to the podcast, watch the documentary and make up their own mind. We have seen significant interest from viewers and listeners who have expressed their appreciation of this investigation.”

However, former security minister Sir John Hayes condemned the decision to grant Begum such ­publicity. He said that “wicked ­people who seek to do us harm shouldn’t be given airtime”.

He added: “Broadcasters have a responsibility when it comes to criminals of all kinds not to glamourise illegality.” He wants the BBC and ITV to review not just their Begum coverage but how they “glamorise malevolence”.

The podcast’s makers claimed they were simply responding to “public interest” in the case.

But Alan Mendoza, of the Henry Jackson Society, an influential think-tank specialising in security policy, said many broadcasters had been taken in by Begum.

He added: “UK broadcasters should be ashamed of themselves for having platformed a national security risk to this country in such favourable terms.

“They have acted as ISIS’s useful idiots and glamourised the idea of joining a jihadist organisation without any repercussions.”

Meanwhile, two TV interviews with Begum in 2021, on Good Morning Britain and Sky News, will escape censure by Ofcom, despite being cited by MI5.

In them, Begum denied that she had been part of ISIS’s morality police and claimed she was merely a housewife and mother.

The interview on Good Morning Britain generated 273 complaints to Ofcom. The watchdog said that it won’t be investigating either interview. A source said that “robust interviews are done with controversial figures all the time”.

In the ITV interview, Begum claimed: “I am completely sorry for anyone that has been affected by ISIS. I in no way agree or try to justify what they did.”

Sir John said that Begum had supported “a violent and vicious regime which was plotting to cause mayhem in our country”.

He added: “To glamourise that malevolence is irresponsible.”


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