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Last Updated: Friday, 15 July 2005, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Feedback - July 2005
What do you think of the stories we have covered? Do you have anything to say about the programme or the issues of the day? You can read and send us your views from this page.

The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.

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This month:

Shoot to kill
Eddie Mair
Elderly care in the NHS
Iraq report / Moqtada al Sadr interview
Child abuse in Angola
Dr Azzam Tamimi film
David Frum film
New Age spiritualism
George Galloway interview


To ensure the pending objective of a suicide bomber is not realised - what other immediate course of action is plausible?
Garry Campbell, Leicester

The news story today [25.07.05] explaining that the shoot-to-kill policy in London came from Israel was biased because it failed to seriously question this policy or put up a politician against the Israeli spokesman. Shoot-to-kill in Israel has resulted in numerous innocent people being killed. The policy creates more resentment and yet more terrorism. Newsnight should be more objective, especially after the Stockwell killing.
A Mangera, London

Reference to a shoot-to-kill policy is a little naive. You can't shoot someone to live! What we are talking about is shooting to disable a potential suicide bomber BEFORE he can press his detonator button. Anyone shot with a police hand gun in the chest is most likely to die, just not so quickly as in the head. This is not Hollywood, shooting kills but so do suicide bombs. This is a new era for Britain and the police will do the best they can. They are only human and have probably less than a second to make a call. Recent events are tragic but if it weren't for the suicide bombers in the first place it would not have happened. Support our police as they endeavour to protect us.
John Fisher, Cobham

A witness has made it clear that Jean Charles de Menezes was very frightened when confronted by the police. Why? He had nothing to hide as far as we know, so the reason could be as follows: He saw a man chasing him, probably looking aggressive, NOT in police uniform, it has to be said. I believe the policeman wore a baseball hat! Would you stop? I have had experience of two plain-clothes policemen who knocked on my door some years ago. I could not see their identity cards and would not have known if the cards were forgeries anyway. I was extremely frightened. Could not these plain-clothes police, possibly with the use of Velcro, have torn off a piece of their front shirt to reveal the words "POLICE"? Otherwise, we will continue to see more such tragedies...
Pamela Power, Manchester


Tony Blair has condemned the suicide bombings as if they were morally different from non-suicide bombings. The media often make the same mistake. These killers are murderers, not martyrs, and should be condemned for the evil they have done, not for something their sympathisers are actually proud of.
George Kendall, Cambridge


Hear! Hear! for Eddie Mair. Soft and fluffy on the outside, until the kill. One exact question to the interviewee and their weaknessess are exposed for all to see. As for the set - it is soooo last February. Newsnight is the only serious news programme on BBC TV, it is not Newsnight-The Musical. Shape up please.
Wendy Byrom, Guernsey

I wanted to comment on Eddie Mair's impeccable presenting on Monday's night show [25.07.05]. He exuded calmness, authority and an intelligent wit and it was a real pleasure to watch.
John Johnston, London

Thank you for letting the wonderful Eddie Mair loose on Newsnight, and maintaining the programme's impeccable Scottish ethos! Please can we have more of him?
Alex Scott, London

Hooray for Eddie Mair - the sharpest wit on radio comes to television. Please tell me he's going to be a regular!
Mac, United Kingdom

Hands up everyone who wants Eddie Mair to host Newsnight more often or on a regular basis? What a refreshing, engaging presenting style - calm, warm, incisive and funny. No sign of any aggression - more a centred way of getting to the core of a story or interview without the dramatics or hostility seen in some journalism. More please!
Caitlin McKiernan, East London


What is this obsession with having BBC reporters talk to camera whilst walking in front of some activity or another in the background? This is usually some commentary whilst a politician conducts a walkabout in the background or a sports team arrives or departs from somewhere or another. Harmless enough for the most part, if a little irritating. It is merely another example of one of those fads that seem to afflict TV producers from time to time in their ceaseless quest to make the news more interesting. But when reporters insist on doing this when the police are clearing the streets behind them because of a bomb threat it is stupid and irresponsible. I have seen it twice today, once on Newsnight and once on the main BBC1 News. It is totally unnecessary, makes no contribution to the story they are trying to tell and merely impedes the police when they have better things to do. Please stop it.
Paul Owen, Birmingham

PHONICS [20.07.05]

Click here for more on phonics

My children go to school in Belgium where, as in most European countries, children don't even start learning to read until they're six. Most children here learn to read quickly and with little effort using a highly structured phonics programme. Most children are fluent readers by the time they're seven and few struggle to read. I think my children are really lucky to be in this education system and I don't know why the British Government insists on British children learning to read so early. Too early in my opinion.
S Hutchison, Belgium

Teachers become de-skilled because of the prescriptive nature of such programmes
Geraldine Brennan
I think Hampshire, certainly this area, has employed the Jolly Phonics system for a long time now with very high success. I don't quite understand why this is news item. It's absolutely standard here. That's if it's the same sort of thing.
Mel Overton, Yateley, Hampshire

I own and run a pre-prep Montessori school in Exeter, Devon. We have always taught reading using synthetic phonics and have had wonderful success over the last 18 years. However, Montessori advocated this system nearly a 100 years ago. We have spent many years inventing and refining teaching materials for the children, including a synthetic phonic dictionary which can be used for reading and spelling. Children in our kindergarten often read before their 4th birthday and the books we use do not challenge their understanding. They never meet sounds which they do not know and develop a love of reading simply because they can do it!
Ruth Bloomfield, Exeter

My seven year old son is Autistic. He was, until recently, in a speech and language unit within a mainstream primary school. Last year, RML was introduced into the unit. My son could not read at the time. After only one term he began to read so fluently that it has now been decided to integrate him into the mainstream setting full-time. Thus I am very much in favour of this approach to teaching reading and believe that without having had the benefit of the RML programme he would not have made such significant progress.
Deborah Packenham, Muswell Hill, London

I was headteacher of an infant school for 11 years. Almost all children in my school were able to read well, some extremely well, by the time they left Year Two at age seven. The school used a range of strategies when teaching reading as not all children learn to read well using only one strategy. Your reports were very simplistic. It was obvious that the children at the school had been very badly provided for in previous years. The standard of reading was so bad that almost anyone new coming to the school, using any methods, would have made some improvement. With justification, much was made of the children's achievements, but we did not learn how far behind the norm many of these children still were. Another factor in the rapid improvement made by some children was their age - some were quite old to be still at the stage of word recognition. Their progress would be rapid, given a good learning situation. It was interesting that among the staff, teaching assistants seemed to be most enthusiastic while a teacher had reservations. This is significant. Teaching is a skilled profession. The danger of programmes like synthetic phonics is that teachers become de-skilled because of the prescriptive nature of such programmes. I am delighted that the children at this school appear to be getting the education they deserve, but Newsnight did not serve its audience - particularly parents - well with these reports. Professor Dombey began to put the reports into perspective, explaining the total package the school had put into place. Unfortunately, the Conservative spokesman seemed to be a total convert to something he did not understand. Learning to read is a very complex task - does anyone understand how children learn to read? Focussing on one strategy alone is wrong. How much improvement in reading at the school was as a result of factors other than synthetic phonics?
Geraldine Brennan, Gateshead

I am 64, and learned to read in an overcrowded classroom in a still war-ravaged deprived London primary school using the method now described as phonics. Czech, not English was my first language. Indeed I was in my teens before I spoke English properly. But I mastered reading with no problems at all, and was from an early age reading and understanding books well beyond my abilities in spoken English. It seems perverse in the extreme that it should have taken something like half a century to rediscover what was obvious then: You learn the sounds, fit them together and you can read. Where's the problem? And why on earth did anyone change the system? Not all of us went on to university, but I can't remember anyone who couldn't read. It's a mad, mad world, in which mad, mad people put mad, mad theories before common sense!
Tom Beck, Bath

My experience confirms everything that the Ruth Miskin programme did for Britannia Village Primary - and the huge benefits for spelling and also for children's behaviour weren't mentioned either. It makes it doubly depressing to see Henrietta Dombey still in denial in the face of yet more clear evidence that synthetic phonics works for ALL children, and still plugging the "multiple strategies" for word reading that have been shown consistently to fail for a large proportion of children. With "experts" whose eyes and ears are closed, what hope is there for reform?
Amanda, London


I'm afraid this sort of treatment is inevitable in our societies where we shove people away for others to take care of while we get on with our lives. This is true of the elderly, but also of children, where lack of proper family care is probably responsible for most bad behaviour today. The elderly of course are even more helpless. I don't think any amount of money spent will induce many people to properly care for those who have reached the end of their lives and are, let's face it, a burden. The only people likely to really care about them are their families - and they should be the ones looking out for them. The ideal family unit would not be the parents plus 2.4 children - it would be people of all generations sharing their lives, where the youngest benefit from the wisdom of the eldest, and the eldest are rejuvenated by the energy of the youngest. Utopia? Could be done if we could all learn to be a little less selfish.
Rita Kitto, Geneva, Switzerland


I think Newsnight's coverage of Iraq was excellent. You should allow more independent filmmakers like the person who made this film to cover stories that BBC correspondents are afraid to touch. The film gave an amazing inside information about Iraq conflict which I have seen only on Channel4 News before.
Sadiq Moussavi, Brighton

I think your report on the disastrous situation in Iraq was excellent. It made clear that Government optimism about Iraq is unjustified and that the warnings of likely chaos by those who opposed the invasion of Iraq were correct.
Ted Welch, London

Is Sadr's vision of what education entails likely to bring peace and prosperity in Iraq? I think the problems in Iraq (beside the obvious) are so numerous and their resolutions could go either way. I would say that it is important that education in Iraq involves more than the Koran.
Samir Tappouni, Richmond/London

Child abuse in Angola

Response from Angus Stickler

1. Why didn't we do more to help the children we found?

This was an issue that troubled us greatly. In the case of the eight-year-old boy that died and the girl undergoing an exorcism, I feel that we did all we could to try and intervene. We made repeated (dozens) of calls to the Angolan child protection authorities - and the international community in Angola via UNICEF over a number of days asking them to intervene.

In the case of the boy, we asked the traditional healer - Avo Kitoko - and the boy's mother to take the child to hospital. We asked the Angolan Government and UNICEF to remove the child and at the very least for doctors to visit and give medical attention to the boy. We offered to transport officials and medical staff to the compound. We visited the compound on two separate occasions to check on the welfare of the boy. Unfortunately official intervention came too late.

The only other option open to us would be to forcibly remove the boy ourselves. We thought long and hard about this. I came to the decision it would not be appropriate for a number of reasons:

- We could not guarantee access to a hospital or appropriate medical attention.
- Removing the child without official sanction or the parent's consent would be hazardous and possibly illegal.
- Because of the condition of the boy there was a distinct possibility that he may die in our care before we got him to hospital.

2. Organisations that can help:

Padre Horacio (only speaks Spanish) 00 244 923 419 043.
Padre Pablo Jose Galvan (speaks English) 00 244 912 215 470

Padre Francisco N'Tanda: 00 244 923 351 342 and 00 244 912 304 320.

I have just switched over to BBC2 to watch Newsnight and am appalled at the sight of a small child having some cruel type of torture done to him. It has turned my stomach and left me feeling close to tears and thoroughly sick. As I am expecting at the moment it has extremely upset me and I cannot believe what I have just seen. Why do all TV programmes have to be so graphic with no warning of what is to be shown?
Miss C Francis

Last night's report from Angola about child abuse was the most disturbing thing I have seen on television ever. The dying little boy being spat at is still haunting me. Please can somebody tell me how I can do something to help? What organisations are out there tackling this terrible cruelty?
Fran de Sousa, Newcastle upon Tyne

Never have I felt so much sorrow and pity for children in my whole life than last night. To think that governments accept such practices is an utter disgrace. The so-called priest is nothing short of a murderous Charlatan who is on some perverse enjoyment in dressing up in robes and pretending to be some kind of "healer". Never has such a term been more abused than in these countries. Although the programme was harrowing it had to be shown. However, I feel that more should be done to remove children from such places by the investigators.
Chris Sandiford, Manchester

Is there any way we can support the Angolan orphanage which is helping the abused children shown in your harrowing report about witchcraft? Is there any other charity working on their behalf in the area? I would dearly love to help in some way but feel powerless.
Wendy Varley

Angus Stickler's report was so horrific. I actually could not watch the TV screen the whole way through the report. Is there anything a member of the general public can do in terms of organisations to support in regards to child abuse under the guise of witchcraft? Please do let me know. It was a piece of journalism that has left me dumfounded and shocked to the core - I cannot get the images that I did see out of my mind.
A Mathews, London

I was absolutely appalled by the report on witchcrft in Angola. Although I couldn't bring myself to view it all, the scenes I did see have left me feeling utterly disgusted and sick to my stomach. Despite viewers being warned the clip was extremely harrowing I could not have envisaged how disturbed I would feel by watching the report. Although the reporter told an official about the boy who later died I would like to know why he did not contact agencies such as Save the Children and UNICEF about this particular child. I cannot believe that those involved in filming the report just walked away leaving him to a slow and painful death. I would also like to know more about what is being done by agencies such as those mentioned above to help those children in this awful plight.
Sarah Holland, Billingshurst

Exactly what steps were taken to stop the child abuse witnessed by the reporter? What steps were taken by your reporters and crew to safeguard and protect the child? I felt that I was viewing televised child abuse. I would feel happier if I knew that everything was done by the BBC to ensure the child was removed to a safe place? Clearly that did not happen. I have never witnessed such a distressing news report. In view of the considerable resources the BBC has at its disposal I find that quite shocking. The child, surely, SHOULD have been protected; not filmed.
Anthony Lochrie, Llanelli

I was profoundly upset by the footage shown on your report from Angola, especially by what can only be described as the degrading and painful torture to death of an innocent eight-year-old boy. This was all the more disgusting when you reveal that money is the motivator for those who inflict such unnecessary pain and death on innocent children by playing on the ignorant fears and superstitions of the local people. Please advise what I can personally do to publicise this and help stop and change this. I cannot just put this one to the back of my mind! Thanks Brian
Brian O'Neill, Lancashire

I was extremely distressed to watch your report on the torture of children in Angola in the name of witchcraft. It reminded me why I normally avoid watching such stories, because I was left with a feeling of complete helplessness and depression. Why didn't the reporting team step in and save that poor boy when the authorities failed to respond? If, as suggested, in the report, the church leaders who practice this torture are preying on poverty, couldn't they have offered some money to the pastor and removed him to safety? After watching something harrowing, a positive message should be put across. What can we the viewers do practically about it? Is there no campaign group or charity? Even Eastenders has a number you can ring after showing something supposedly upsetting. I think you failed in that report because it aroused strong emotions in viewers which have no practical outlet. You also failed that poor boy.
Lisa Kelly, London

Dr Azzam Tamimi film

Reply from Programme Editor Peter Barron

Dr Azzam Tamimi
Dr Azzam Tamimi's film condemned the London bomb attacks
Last night's (Thurs, 14 July) item looking at the response within the Muslim community in Britain to the London attacks provoked a number of complaints.

The item consisted of a personal, authored film by Dr Azzam Tamimi of the Muslim Association of Britain, followed by a discussion among three British Muslims with very different perspectives. The purpose of the item was to respond to an authored film shown on Newsnight a couple of nights earlier made by David Frum, George Bush's former speechwriter, which gave a neo-conservative, pro-Israeli perspective, and we pointed this out in the introduction.

Dr Tamimi made a film which condemned the London attacks but pointed to causes of Muslim anger, including policy towards Palestine and Iraq. The discussion which followed featured Dr Tamimi and two very different shades of Muslim opinion - Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and Mohammed Shahid Raza of the UK Council of Mosques.

Most of the discussion dealt with the approach of the Muslim community to extremism. Mr Bukhari is a young moderate Muslim who was outspokenly critical of what he saw as the imams' failure to curb extremism in Muslim communities. In the course of the interview we put to Dr Tamimi a quote which he had given in the past which supported suicide bombing in Israel and asking how that squared with his condemnation of the London attacks. He defended his position strongly.

We then put the same point to Mr Bukhari who, perhaps surprisingly given the modernising and moderate tone of his contribution until that point, said that he agreed entirely. Gavin rightly pressed both contributors on the apparent contradiction in condemning suicide bombing in Britain but condoning it in Israel.

I don't think it is right to say that these controversial views went unchallenged. I believe it was legitimate to stage an intra-Muslim debate in response to the London attacks, and revealing to show that some of even the most moderate Muslims support the notion of suicide bombing in the context of Israel.

Tonight I had mixed feelings as I watched your show (Thurs, 14 July). There was a very interesting discussion hosted by Gavin Esler. The panel were all Muslim and speaking openly about the issues we face as a community - this was positive. However I was very disturbed by the presenter of the item that trailed this debate - when questioned he suggested we should view the Palestinian suicide bombers differently from the London bombers. My response absolutely not - they are all murderers in the eyes of their God - innocent people are killed in both cases.
Paul, Peterborough

I was deeply troubled by Dr Azzam Tamini's views and his film. His argument that suicide bombings are acceptable in Israel is deplorable. There is a link between Israel, the Middle East and the London bombings. Just as those acts are reprehensible over here, so too over there. Indeed, anywhere where innocent lives are deliberately and maliciously targeted. There can be no exceptions in our communal condemnation of these atrocities. Gavin failed to expose him on this matter.
Graham, London

Dear Sir, I was truly shocked to hear Dr Azzam Tamini state that murdering civilians in Israel is acceptable. I appreciate this was his "personal opinion" but it was encouraged by the presenter and supported by the other guests. Personally, I feel it is wrong for the BBC to be broadcasting this sort of mindless hatred, dressed up as respectable opinion, into millions of living rooms around the country.
Peter Hoyland, London

I was appalled by the weak interview with three Muslim "leaders" last night. Why were the two supporters of suicide bombers in Israel not confronted properly on this public support? The interviewer might have asked "so you support bombers getting on to a bus and blowing up women, children and babies?" Where is the BBC's moral fibre and integrity?
Richard Whiteman, St Neots

I found your interview with the Muslim community representatives extremely distasteful. According to them, while suicide bombing is completely wrong in London or Madrid, it is perfectly acceptable to blow up innocent civilians on buses if it happens to be in Israel. Unfortunately Gavin Esler did not challenge them on this disgraceful argument.
Daniel, Oxford

Watching your presenter's interview with the three prominent members of the Muslim community, I was expecting to hear intelligent responses to Gavin Esler's questions. Instead I was horrified to hear that while they deplored the bombings in London, it was a "different situation in Israel/Palestine". Are these men serious? If they really wanted to set an example, what they should have said was that the act of a suicide bomber that kills innocent men, women and children is deplorable and barbaric, no matter where it happens whether it is London, Baghdad or Tel Aviv.
Cathal Keenan, Dublin, Ireland

David Frum film

Reply from Programme Producer, Robbie Gibb

David Frum
David Frum is a leading neo-conservative commentator and former speech writer to President Bush
On Monday (11 July, 2005) Newsnight broadcast a signed opinion piece by David Frum, a leading neo-conservative commentator and former speech writer to President Bush. It was clearly indicated that Mr Frum was expressing a personal view and his film was followed by a discussion in which he was challenged by an opponent, Adel Bari Atwan.

Despite this, the item attracted a large number of complaints. Many of these seemed to be made under the misapprehension that the film was a conventional journalistic report, rather than a personal opinion piece of the kind that Newsnight commissions from time to time. For example, tonight we will be broadcasting a similar item, by Dr Azzam Tamini of the Muslim Association of Britain, which will be under his editorial control.

We feel strongly that the quality of the programme is enhanced by occasional personal opinion pieces, as long as they are clearly labelled as such, are followed by a discussion in which their assertions can be tested and challenged and, of course, offer a broad spectrum of views across a period of time.

As feedback for the Monday 11th July edition of Newsnight: Since when did the BBC become a propaganda wing of the US Government? When I want to know what President Bush's speechwriters think I'll listen to one of his speeches. They don't need, or deserve, to be given a five minute slot during which they can give a speech, completely unopposed, of their personal opinion of what Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda want. What exactly qualified David Frum to appear on Newsnight anyway?
Mark Boothroyd, Leeds

I was very disappointed to hear David Frum's comments on the Newsnight. In one sentence he summed up the happenings around the world as problems created by Muslims in various countries, for example, he treated the Kashmir situation as a problem for India forgetting those killed by Indian troops in Kashmir.
Taz Khawja

I feel I must take issue with David Frum's report, particularly his view that India can be used as a role model for democracy. As an Indian Muslim I know from my own experience that religious extremism is alive and well in India, despite democratic elections.
Azhar Ala, Tooting, London

I was grateful of David Frum's presentation and debate regarding democracy in the Middle East. His ideas were presented succinctly and convincingly, enabling all Britons to understand why, more than ever, we must stand strong with our American allies to enable the ushering of democracy in the Middle East. Furthermore, his dismissal of the argument that Israel is the cause of much unrest in the region was greatly appreciated.
Matthew Jackson, Manchester

New Age spiritualism

How excellent to see Newsnight juxtapose an item on the growth of New Age spirituality with the latest news on the London bomb attacks. The relevance of this growth stands out clearly. A new spirituality is not just a personal lifestyle choice.
Dan Sidey, Plymouth

I was interested by your report on Tuesday 28th about spirituality. As a 21 year old who has grown up in the Anglican Church (in all its many flawed forms) I would like to suggest that the outlook is not as bleak as the report suggests. Some British, even Church of England, churches are not in decline. In fact, statistically from the last census of 10 parishes in a deanery four of them were in fact in a state of growth. Thank you.
Benjamin Welby, York

George Galloway interview

Response from Newsnight Editor Peter Barron:

It's clear from the large response to this interview that many viewers were unhappy with the way it was handled. I too, watching from home, was unhappy with the way it went as it clearly descended into a tetchy and unsatisfactory encounter, particularly towards its abrupt end.

Having reviewed the tape, however, I genuinely do not see any evidence that Gavin set out intentionally to be rude or aggressive. I do accept that the interview did not go well, but I think this was due to an unfortunate set of factors which occasionally come together in live television rather than any editorial intention on our part to treat a guest unfairly.

Gavin Esler's interview with George Galloway was a total disgrace. If it wasn't obvious before that the BBC are out to "Get Galloway" with the extraordinary Paxman attack on election night, then it is quite clear now. This treatment stands in marked contrast to the sycophantic and deferential behaviour towards extreme right-wing US politicians such as Perle and Wolfowitz. I doubt whether you will publish these comments but I hope you will think about them.
Kebz, Manchester.

Re: George Galloway last night. Londoners must be grateful to him for speaking the truth, because if Mr Blair is simply being disingenuous by pretending that the despicable attacks this week were carried out by those who hate us because of who we are and not because of what he has done in Iraq.
R. Boland

I'm just writing to say that I was absolutely appalled with George Galloway's appearance on Friday's edition of Newsnight. Following on from his insensitive comments shortly after the London bombings on Thursday, I had hoped that he would have accepted the criticisms, and would appear at least contrite. Gavin Esler handled the situation remarkably well and I am sure that Mr Galloway's appearance has not done him any favours.

George Galloway said tonight loudly what everybody thinks and knows. This terrorism will not be defeated by war. Why do governments and BBC journalists still say there is no link between what happens in the Middle East and what happened in London yesterday?
GP, London

Although I am no fan of George Galloway what is the point of inviting him onto the programme if Gavin Esler doesn't allow him to speak!(Programme 9th July).
Colin Bridger, Camberley


I am a great admirer of Paul Mason and have said as much on his blog, but could someone please remind him that he is now back from Edinburgh and is no longer slumming it - a gentleman's dress on BBC news programmes includes a tie!
Daniel Davies, London

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Feedback - May 2005
12 May 05 |  Newsnight
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