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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Panorama bias claim 'ludicrous'
Muslims at prayer
The Panorama special has been accused of being pro-Israeli

A claim by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) that an upcoming Panorama is blatantly pro-Israeli has been dismissed as "ludicrous" by the reporter who worked on the programme.

The Panorama Special, made by renowned journalist John Ware, is about Britain's Muslim communities and investigates whether their leaders can tackle the growth of extremism in their midst.

Ware interviewed MCB chairman Sir Iqbal Sacranie for the programme but Sir Iqbal has since officially complained to the BBC.

In a letter to Director General Mark Thompson, Sir Iqbal states: "The Panorama team is more interested in furthering a pro-Israeli agenda than assessing the work of Muslim organisations in the UK."

'Axe to grind'

It goes on to suggest that the BBC is being manipulated by "highly placed supporters of Israel".

However, Ware told the BBC's staff magazine Ariel such a claim was "ludicrous". He added: "They haven't seen it; we haven't finished editing it.

John Ware
Panorama reporter John Ware said he had finished the programme

"They're saying I have an axe to grind. I haven't got an axe to grind - other than I'm a British citizen. It's not the way I operate."

The MCB does not claim to have seen the documentary but accuses the Panorama team of "seeming intent on creating mistrust by serving the interests of the pro-Israel lobby and undermining community relations in the UK".

No link

The BBC has rejected any allegations of "institutional or programme bias".

A spokesman added: "[We are] confident that the Panorama programme will be fair and impartial and a timely contribution to the present debate. The BBC will be responding to the letter from the MCB in due course."

The programme was trailed for Sunday, 14 August but has been put back a week because the programme is not yet ready for transmission.

However, the fact that the programme was put back on the same day that Sir Iqbal's comments were reported in the media led some to suggest there was a link.

For instance, Rhodri Brewer emailed NewsWatch to ask: "Has the fact that you are not broadcasting the Panorama Special... anything to do with today's report in the Observer that the BBC has been accused of bias by the Muslim Council of Britain?"

Ware has denied this and said the broadcast date had nothing to do with the MCB complaint.


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