Tory MP uneasy as BBC ‘spreads Taliban propaganda’

By Alex Stevenson

The BBC has jumped to defend itself after a Conservative MP accused it of giving Taliban statements disproportionately high prominence.

Reporting of defence secretary Liam Fox’s statement to the Commons on Afghanistan yesterday saw the Taliban attempt to paint Britain’s withdrawal from the Sangin area as a ‘retreat’.

Tory MP David Tredinnick used the statement to raise concerns about the BBC’s report on the issue.

“Many years ago during the Gulf War, I accused the BBC of being the Baghdad broadcasting corporation,” he told MPs.

“I am very concerned that there is now a similar situation with the Taliban, in that they are getting far too high a profile.”

He told shortly after his appearance in the chamber that he thought it was unfair to present the Taliban as a coherent, organised group.

“Instead of giving them this grand title we should describe them as a bunch of terrorists,” he said.

“Why we are we building these people up? They’re a bunch of scruffs out there with RPGs who are using kids with wheelbarrows to blow up our troops.

“We need a much blunter, more realistic assessment. Churchill would never have put up with this kind of propaganda in a wartime situation.”

The BBC denied that its coverage had given the Taliban’s views excessive prominence.

A BBC News spokesperson said the lead items in reports on Dr Fox’s announcement on UK troop deployments in Sangin featured comment from the US military.

He added: “Our subsequent piece included reaction from Afghanistan which included comments from the Taliban which was relevant in the context of the announcement and was not given any undue prominence.”

But Dr Fox told the Bosworth MP in the Commons that it was “good counsel” for the BBC to use “reasonable language” and have “balanced” views when discussing the issue.

He revealed plans to invite national newspaper editors to be briefed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) “in the near future… simply in order that they can understand the facts on the ground and get them first hand from the military, so that there is no excuse for misreporting the facts in future”.

Mr Tredinnick’s concerns about the reporting of the Taliban remain, however.

He added to afterwards: “My worry is that our enemies are being given a disproportionate platform in the British media and the British media are in danger of losing the sight of the fact they are our enemies.”