BBC discusses when and why to hold back on a story

First posted at DC SPJ.

The BBC wanted to report on the situation of Paul and Rachel Chandler, a British couple who spent more than a year kidnapped in Somalia. It was a major story but legal steps taken by the Chandler family prevented the media from saying anything until the Chandlers were released.

The BBC program Over to You discussed why the Beeb — and other news outlets in Britain — were not able to report the story: The Chandlers: Censorship in a good cause?

The couple’s family had gone to court in the UK and asked a judge to grant them what’s called a ‘super-injunction ‘ – a legal measure that’s caused controversy as it has often been used by celebrities to stop newspapers publishing stories about their private lives.

As it’s also illegal even to refer to the existence of a super-injunction, the BBC could not explain to listeners and viewers why they were quiet on the story when others, who did not obey the ban – were not. Was this something that concerned the Editor of BBC World News, Jon Williams?

He explained that while the BBC is not in the business of censoring the news, no story is worth a life – and so the BBC accepted the argument of the family, their lawyers and the judge that to do otherwise would jeopardise the safety of Paul and Rachel Chandler.

So, as the Over to You editor asks: “What do you think?”

Should the BBC and other news outlets have violated the court injunction and report what they had?


Filed under Connections, International News Coverage

3 responses to “BBC discusses when and why to hold back on a story

  1. I’m really confused as how you could even ask that question. Of COURSE they SHOULDN’T have violated the injunction and, if they had, all involved should have been prosecuted to the absolute fullest extent of the law.

    While this was in Britain, in America such a – thankfully hypothetical – violation of common decency should have been made a capital case with prosecutors seeking the death penalty for each and every member of the press outlet who was involved in any way in bringing the story to market.

  2. kubiske

    I don’t think I would want to report on the details of any hostage negotiating. But to not be able to report that an injunction was in place that prevented the press from saying anything! that is going too far.

    To keep faith with its viewers/listeners/readers the Beeb should have been able to say WHY they couldn’t say anything. It would have shown that there was something happening but not what.

  3. You think it’s going too far. Right-thinking people would disagree with you.

    The media is already allowed too much leeway. Anything that reigns them in is a good thing, Since they’ve proven incapable of upholding their responsibilities their privileges should be curtailed.

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