ElBaradei nixes interview with BBC

IAEA head says corporation's failure to air Gaza aid appeal "violates rules of basic human decency."

ElBaradei 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
ElBaradei 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The chief UN nuclear inspector has cancelled an interview with the BBC following its decision to not broadcast a Gaza aid appeal. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement that the BBC's decision to ban the charity appeal "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong." "We regret that Mr Mohamed El-Baradei is unable to participate in an interview with the BBC while he is at Davos. Our audiences around the world remain interested in what he has to say about a range of topics and we hope he will accept an invitation at another time," the BBC said in a statement. The BBC said it regretted the decision by the Egyptian-born IAEA head and hoped ElBaradei would do an interview at another time. The BBC and Sky News made the decision to not broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, stating that it impinged on their commitment to impartiality. Channel Four, Channel Five and ITN showed the three-minute appeal on Tuesday night, attracting an audience of 4.5 million viewers. The DEC, an umbrella organization of 13 aid charities, said on Wednesday evening that the money raised for their Gaza Crisis appeal has reached £2 million. Meanwhile a lawsuit against the BBC is being pursued on the grounds that the decision to ban the broadcast is discriminatory. Led by west London-based lawyers Lawrence Davies Solicitors, on behalf of 42 people, the suit will argue that the BBC had discriminated against the Palestinian people because the BBC allowed appeals for other ethnic or national groups, such as those affected by the conflicts in Darfur and Kosovo. Lawrence Davies said British race-relations laws covered such incidents, though they had never been used in this way before. "The decision not to broadcast [the appeal] is tainted by racism, it is anti-Palestinian," Davies told the Guardian newspaper. Davies said that BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, has been sent a letter stating that the suit would be filed if the BBC does not reverse its decision. On Tuesday night, protesters burned their television licenses and occupied the reception area at the BBC's headquarters in central London. In an article in Monday's Times newspaper, columnist Andrew Roberts hailed the decision by the BBC but questioned its concern for its reputation. "He [BBC director-general Thompson] is under the impression that it will damage the BBC's reputation for impartiality in reporting the Israel-Palestine question, but the fact is that the BBC does not have any such reputation, having for years been institutionally pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli," he said. "The reason that his decision is brave and right, however, is that many of the 13 charities that make up the DEC are even more mired in anti-Israeli assumptions than the BBC itself," Roberts said, using the British Red Cross and Christian Aid as examples. Roberts asked why the BBC did not launch an appeal during the Kosovo war for the victims of NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999. "Had it done so, would it have given money to ethnic Serbs as well as to Kosovars and Bosnian Muslims, all of whom were 'cleansed' during the Balkan wars of that decade? What about the victims of insurgencies and counter-insurgencies in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Chechnya or Georgia? Or Israeli victims of the next Hamas suicide attack? "Indeed, what about the Palestinian victims of Hamas's hideous human rights abuses, still so shamefully under-reported by the British media as a whole," he said.