BBC censors honour killings drama

The BBC removed crucial lines from a radio drama on honour killings, its writer has said.

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, whose controversial play Behzti was pulled from its run at a Birmingham theatre in 2004, told an Index On Censorship conference that the corporation's compliance department was nervous of a line suggesting all Muslims support honour killing.

The episode of BBC Radio 4's DCI Stone series, which is set to be aired in the Afternoon Drama slot this week, tells the story of a 16-year-old Asian girl who is found stabbed to death.

Once the detective uncovers the murder was an honour killing, he is told to deal with the case "sensitively" because of her Muslim background.

"A week before recording I got an email from the producer saying the BBC compliance department had asked them to take lines out," Bhatti said.

"At the end, a character says: 'There is so much pressure in our community, to look right and to behave right.' The compliance department came back and said: 'We don't want to suggest the entire Muslim community condones honour killings.'"

Bhatti said she faced an "extraordinary and awful situation" which had left her concluding that British society is a "fear-ridden culture".

She added: "Unbelievably, what the compliance department said was if you can find a factual example of community pressure leading to an honour killing, you can have the line. But it's a drama, a story.

"It's a crucial part of that story. I was very disappointed given my previous experience of censorship. If you take out the line, the whole thing changes, it's a betrayal of the character and the truth of the unfolding story."

Bhatti is no stranger to censorship, after sustained protests from the Sikh community at a play showing a rape scene in a temple led to a Birmingham theatre ending its run.

She now writes for The Archers.

A Radio 4 spokesman said: "This is a hard-hitting drama about the realities of honour killing in Britain.

"A single line in the script could be taken to infer that the pressure and motivation to commit such a crime in a family comes from the wider Muslim community, potentially misrepresenting majority British Muslim attitudes to honour killing.

"Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was asked to amend this line in the normal editorial process of script development."