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Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Editor defends Scientology report
BBC reporter John Sweeney
John Sweeney was filmed shouting at a Scientologist

The editor of the BBC's Panorama programme has defended a documentary on the Church of Scientology in which a reporter shouts at one of its members.

Reporter John Sweeney lost his temper during the filming and shouted at Scientology representative Tommy Davis.

Panorama editor Sandy Smith said he was "disappointed" by Mr Sweeney's actions.

But he also said Scientology was an "extraordinary organisation" and had "no way of dealing with any kind of criticism at all".

Mr Smith said: "As you go in as a journalist to try and deal with that, it's explosive."

Footage of the argument between Mr Sweeney and Mr Davis was posted on internet site YouTube in advance of the television broadcast of the documentary on Monday.

I look like an exploding tomato and shout like a jet engine and every time I see it it makes me cringe
John Sweeney

Mr Smith told BBC Breakfast: "Very quickly, two stag beetles were locked."

He added that it was "not a question of calling [Scientology] a cult" and that the programme had not alleged that people were "brainwashed".

'Elephant trap'

Mr Sweeney, writing on the BBC News website, said he had fallen into an "elephant trap" in getting into an argument.

He wrote: "If you are interested in becoming a TV journalist, it is a fine example of how not to do it.

"I look like an exploding tomato and shout like a jet engine and every time I see it makes me cringe."

'The Editors' logo
Our reporter completely lost it in a way that I don't condone
Sandy Smith, Panorama editor

During another argument, Mr Davis was seen telling Mr Sweeney: "I hope somebody is shooting this... You have no right whatsoever to say what is and what isn't a religion.

"The definition of religion is very clear and it's not defined by John Sweeney."

He also told Mr Sweeney his comments about his Scientology faith were "derogatory", "offensive" and "bigoted".

Mr Sweeney responded by saying: "I am a British subject, not an American citizen, and in my country we have a freedom of speech. I have a right to report that."

BBC footage of reporter's fury

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