This is an article seemingly written by the BBC Panorama whistleblower who informed Mayor Lutfur Rahman of Panorama’s activities before they broadcast their programme on his administration on Monday evening. We cannot verify the authenticity of this article but it is taken from a blog which was linked to a Twitter account which Mayor Rahman endorsed, thus pointing to its credibility.
“As some of you are aware there is a criminal investigation under way relating to this programme which limits me as to what I can disclose. There is also an element of gagging involved which refrains me from discussing key elements to justify why I did what I did. None of these works in my favour at all as it makes it difficult for me to justify my actions.
Looking at the constant letters from the BBC lawyers I feel as if I am being bullied into discretion and cannot speak out. But this is a game well played many times by the BBC as they pass on information regarding me to right wing journalists so that through them they can attack me and question my actions claiming that I “betrayed” the BBC.
Well how do they expect me to clarify my position when I am not even allowed to discuss important and relevant events associated with justifying my actions? I guess as journalists that is their job but coming to a conclusion that I should be “ashamed” of myself without hearing my part of the story from me, now that is unfair.
To me it is clear what these right wing journalists motive is and whose side they are on. Of course they want to belittle me, character assassinate me and rubbish all the allegations made against their favourable party without being fair towards me. Well at the end of the day who am I? I am just a little sheep amongst the many lions.
But my point here is what do they actually know about what went on and what comments were made? What do they know about the information contained in the dossier? They for sure did not bother approaching me to hear my side. Surely, is that not a breach of journalistic code? And here they are telling me that I am in breach of certain conducts.
The Mayor and Our Money, the title is so simple yet the programme content itself is so deceiving. My first initial meeting with the makers of the programme was earlier this year in which I was told that the programme was being made in the public interest and that this documentary will benefit the community of Tower Hamlets.
Great I thought. What an amazing opportunity to start my career off and what better way to begin as a journalist being involved with one of the most influential media Institutions and programme and to be working with a high profile journalist/reporter. If my involvement in this programme helps that community in any way in which 30% are Bengali then why not be involved. But how would I have known that these people I am about to engage with are a victim of their own minds.
My first negative encounter with the team was when a comment about my physical appearance was made and how it helped in a way to “adapt easily” to people during secret filming. This comment was made by John Ware. The comment struck a chord and made me reply back to which I told them that it was unfair to make that comment as they should be taking me on for my ability not because of my appearance.
That they did not like, and with that immediately Neil Grant, stood up in annoyance and walked out of the room without even acknowledging me. Was it what I said? What did I do I thought? Did I do the right thing by answering back or should I have kept my mouth shut? To be honest I was in disbelief. I was telling myself that that was it, they won’t take me on now. I just ruined a great opportunity.
But despite my thoughts the meeting continued with the other two programme makers still in the room. I was asked about how much I knew about Tower Hamlets and I made clear that as I lived in another county I did not know much about it all I knew was that a big proportion of my Bengali community lived there. Towards the end of the meeting promises about pay were made and how an experience like this would look great on my CV with that the meeting ended.
On the topic of the programme and the actual allegations being made against me by the BBC, let me just make clear the purpose of Panorama. Panorama is supposed to be an investigative documentary programme aired on the BBC. It promises to be unbiased and unravel the truth to help us to understand the environment around us.
It is a powerful source of media and at times is in a position to damage or enlighten the lives of a person or organisation so it is no surprise that as the local election are fast approaching in May, Panorama have decided to “investigate” one of the biggest boroughs in London perhaps to influence your decisions on choosing the suitable candidate to represent Tower Hamlets.
But as I worked as a researcher on the programme I realised the immense manipulation of facts that occur in its research and I questioned myself whether this programme was being made to show us the truth or show us the message Panorama wants us to believe. Was it really in the public interest or was it being used to imply the programme makers ideology of us Bengali people and what they “think” the mayor does with the council funds?
This leads me to the question about why they only targeted the Borough of Tower Hamlets and it mayor. As my own research concludes this council has been the highlight of scrutiny ever since a “brown skinned, bangla man” took charge. The entire council went through investigations and audits and the result of that was no form of corruption was found so why has John Ware decided to pursue an “investigative” documentary on this particular borough when in another area, to name, Basingstoke and Dean there was an investigation that followed earlier this year leading to the result that fraud was being practiced there. Why did John Ware not “investigate” that particular borough and not the one where actual fraud was happening? Was it because one is brown skinned Asian and the other white?
The information I can share is very concise therefore I can only perhaps mention brief substance of why I did what I did. These are mentioned in the bullet points below. These points of course were obvious to me while I worked there and whether they have altered some information for the show to be allowed to broadcast I do not know.
Panorama had gathered up on a spreadsheet all the names of organisations that are funded by the council and collected the names of the trustees of that particular organisation and then they asked me to verify just by name whether those particular trustees were of Bengali origin or not.
Now when I was asked to do this I questioned the director of how this method of ethnic profiling was fair. I told them that giving an example, if a trustees name was “Shazia Akhter” how could I verify whether “Shazia Akhter” was Bengali or not, as the name Shazia and Akhter could belong to a person who is of Pakistani origin and of Bangladeshi origin? How would that be fair? But my questions were not paid much attention to.
Another thing they did with the spreadsheet is the analysis of how much funding each organisation received. After calculating the total funds for each organisation they had come to a conclusion that there was not much difference in the amount the mayor hands out to Bangladeshi organisations and non-Bangladeshi organisations but of course like every other good propagandists, Panorama want to give a selective portrayal so they picked up a handful of organisations that are heavily influenced by the mayor to prove that the money is being diverted to “friends” of the mayor.
The second part of the research where they took statements from sources and interviews from people in Tower Hamlets on their opinion of what the mayor is doing with the council money is biased. They only took statements from opposition parties who were anti Lutfur Rahman and also took statements from ex workers who have had a clash with the mayor. They were totally aware that the people they were interviewing or taking statements from would have nothing but negative comments about the mayor.
So how would that be a fair portrayal? My point was if the BBC were to commission this programme would it not be in breach of its own conduct as mentioned in their Editorial Guidelines, “..when making use of evidence from whistle-blowers, it is important to consider any ulterior motives they might have, particularly if they no longer work for the organisation or company concerned and their claims could be discredited by the manner of their dismissal…”
The next thing Panorama investigated was the link between Channel S and Lutfur Rahman. They were very much interested in the four hour interview the mayor had given on the Channel S. They want the audience to believe that it is not conventional TV but in fact a political broadcast. They focus also on the interviewee Mahee Ferdhaus Jalil whose past we are all aware of. Their theory was the financial relationship between the Channel and Mayor.
But they only try to defame Channel S and the Mayor because Channel S is an easy target as it was previously nearly shut down by OFCOM. They try to show Channel S being funded by the mayor but they totally overlook the fact of other channels also associated with the council who helps with the running of them. Their point was how “comfortable” the mayor looked while being interviewed by a “criminal.”
I mean being of Bengali origin and often hearing about Mahee Jalil, my understanding is that the Bengali community allowed Mahee Jalil back again on television because they forgave him for his mistakes as we know that we will always be grateful to him for bringing Channel S into our homes. If we do not have a problem with him being in front of our TV sets why should anyone else?
They had also written a script even before they had conducted their research thoroughly. On the script they create a scene in which the journalist John Ware makes a call to the council wanting to arrange a meeting with the mayor and is refused. This reminded me brings me of the John Sweeney story where he wanted to create a visual impact to the audience and just like him John Ware would be trying to establish denial of access by staging this scene. Again I thought if the BBC were to allow this programme to be broadcast it once again goes against its own guidelines which state,”..it is..unacceptable in news and factual programmes to; stage or re-stage significant actions or events.”
The final and most disappointing message that Panorama were to portray throughout the production of the making of this documentary while I was working there was the continuous mention of the word Bengali and how Bengali people are. They did not even take time to speak to the ordinary residents of Tower Hamlets, instead they hand picked certain individuals and they only singled out Bengalis, representing us as a selfish community pocketing from the government. They accuse us of being “extremely suspicious of the mainstream media” without any evidence to prove it. They make us look as if we are a greedy community without clearly understanding our culture or our struggle.
One of the accusations made against me refers to a word claiming that I “demanded” money. This I found quite absurd. They make it sound as if I held a gun to their heads or blackmailed them for materialistic needs. I have to clarify that this was never the case. The amount of pay was never cleared with me. I was constantly told to confirm with one person to another and coincidently the day I decided to leave was the day the topic of pay was being discussed. Another thing I want to clear up after reading a recent article is that I sent an email saying, “thanks but no thanks” to Films of Record and not vice versa. But how could the writer of that article know that? He did not bother approaching me.
To conclude I alerted the programme makers on a few occasions relating to the programme but my queries were never adhered to. I did what I did because of my conscience not because of what they portray me as. Before being involved in the production of this programme I had never researched on Tower Hamlets or its Mayor.
I came to know what I know after the research I undertook. I firmly stand by the decision I took but you know what angers me it is the fact that Mayor Lutfur’s administration is making a difference and they themselves and a lot of other people know that. You only have to calculate the amount of houses being built, number of times he has a surgery open to the public so they can discuss their problems.
For example look at education, the borough is thriving with potential, why don’t they once at least congratulate the mayor on what he has done for education? I’ll you why because education allows you to have your own mind, to judge between right and wrong, but what their agenda is for people to be passive, be brainwashed and follow them.
As Jordan Maxwell quotes, “the most dangerous thing you can do is educate people, because when people become educated you cannot control them, you cannot frighten them. People who are educated know their own power, and don’t surrender it to others.” You see all these people they are aware that this administration has a massive chance of survival and they want to break that so they can use the old method of divide and rule.
Taking the decision to inform Tower Hamlets was not an easy decision for me because I had to chose between my conscience and career but in the end my emotions took over and the love for my community overpowered the need of my career. Therefore I do not regret the decision I took. The BBC team, the right wing journalists can criticise me all they want. I am not the journalist that writes about how multicultural London is yet when a brown skinned mayor is elected he is numerously accused of every allegation thought of.
I mean do they not eat curries on a Friday, Saturday evening? Who gives them the pleasure of those curries? These brown skinned, Asian people. I am not the one who claims to be living in a democracy yet subconsciously through the media we are told how to live, how to behave, what to eat, what to do and even who to vote.”