Movement for Justice letter to NUJ and BECTU trade unions (TV journalists and technicians)
8 September, 1998
Re: Bashir interview with racist murder suspects
I write regarding the reports in the press that BBC journalist, Martin Bashir, has approached the five racist youths widely suspected of murdering Stephen Lawrence in order to produce a TV interview, possibly for Panorama. On behalf of the Movement for Justice, an anti-racist group which has been actively involved in the campaign for justice for Stephen and in the recent inquiry proceedings, I wish to urge you to do all you can to prevent this.
On Saturday, September 5, TUC general secretary, John Monks, had a letter in the Guardian entitled "No platform for racists", it read:
"I am extremely concerned by your story that Panorama is to interview the youths accused of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence (TV slot for murder suspects, September 3). These men have abused every legal opportunity available to them to clear their names. At the inquest into Stephen's death, at the private prosecution brought by the Lawrence family, and at the judicial inquiry, their refusal to answer questions, monosyllabic responses and claims that they could not remember events made a mockery of the judicial system. It would be a disgrace if as reported, the BBC was planning a Louise Woodward-style interview with the youths. This would give them a false credibility when they have so blatantly abused the legal process."
We agree with Mr. Monks. In fact the racists concerned have had their time on TV when a police surveillance video was broadcast showing them brandishing knives, practising stabbing motions and spewing a litany of racist abuse. That transmission made it quite clear what the real views of these youths are. They repeatedly talked of killing black people, and all the evidence suggests they put that into practice and have avoided comment since.
Their approach to publicity agent Max Clifford and contact with Martin Bashir is a cynical attempt to present themselves, their racist views and actions in a more credible and manicured light. Such an interview would not only be an insult to the Lawrence family but, by creating an air of respectability, an incitement to racial murder. These five are only famous because they are suspected of one of the foulest racist murders in recent history. They have refused to answer any questions in relation to that murder and shown swaggering defiance towards the black community who protested at them during the inquiry. To broadcast an interview with them is the same as giving airspace to Fascist leaders who use publicity to incite racist violence.
As a former ACTT (now Bectu) representative at Visnews (Reuters TV) and subsequently a member of the London Freelance branch, I know that many of your members will share our disgust at the prospect of their labour being used to encourage such violently racist views. We would appeal to all those members, and to yourselves, to refuse to handle any such interview.
If Mr. Bashir is a member of the NUJ then his union, having a policy against racism, should immediately demand he desists with this project, if he continues the only proper response would be to exclude him from the union.
We would hope Bectu members would refuse to work on any programme that these five were interviewed on. If both unions make this policy clear now then the BBC may decide it is not worth going ahead with such a controversial interview. If legal action was threatened against either union we are certain that the support your members would get for taking such a stand would be so widespread as to make such action inoperable.
We urge you to have a full discussion of this matter with your members, particularly those involved in the possible transmission. We are also appealing to other interested campaigns to make their views heard on these matters. We believe that this is a most important and urgent question where the union policies of opposing racism must really be put into action.
Please let us know what you are able to do to prevent such a broadcast. If you are unable to prevent it going ahead, we would like to be informed of when and where the interview is taking place so that a demonstration can be held against it.
Nick De Marco for the Movement for Justice
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