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Anti-War Protestors Turn Fire On Auntie!

In a sign of growing sophistication, anti-war activists have taken their battle to the doors of the BBC (often affectionately referred to as Auntie Beeb in the UK). In what they describe as ‘A Call For Light’, a broad coalition of activist groups held a vigil outside the BBC’s Bush House last night. Their aim is to publicise what they describe as biased and unbalanced coverage by the national broadcaster.

by: on: 4th Dec, 04

In its short life, 'A Call For Light' has certainly attracted some high profile support. The film director, Ken Loach, commends the organisers for highlighting "the distortion of language by the media" and their protest has also been endorsed by the Stop the War Coalition, Naomi Klein, Harold Pinter, and the journalist, John Pilger. The event even has the backing of two Iraqi groups: the Union of Unemployed and Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation.

"The turning point for me was Fallujah," says organiser Antony Wright, 'every day friends and colleagues would email me reports from the Red Cross and journalists actually in Fallujah - then I would turn on the BBC news and be astonished. The reports of gas, napalm, trapped civilians, young teenagers targeted as combatants and the utter destruction were absent."

Fellow organiser, and Filmmaker Gabriele Zamparini, said "the refusal to adequately address the plight of Iraqi civilians, including the 100,000 who have died and the 400,000 who are now suffering from malnutrition, highlights one of our main concerns - the failure to provide alternative perspectives to those offered by the UK and US governments."

This message was underlined by Tony Simpson, from the Bertrand Russell Foundation, who said "Fallujah has been rendered into rubble, many people have been killed and injured, but the world's broadcasters largely acquiesce to blatant news management by those responsible."

In addition to his concerns about the use of language and the BBC's willingness to accept the government version of events in Iraq, Zamparini said, he wanted to draw attention to the absence of commentators who can offer a balance to what is largely a one-sided coverage. "Where are the reports from brave journalists who stayed behind in Fallujah, where are the Red Cross/Crescent, Medact, families of servicemen and women and members of the public who against this war"

Andrew Bergin, the press officer for the Stop The War Coalition, said "The consistently pro-war coverage from the BBC is damaging to our democracy. We find it difficult if not impossible to get our message or spokespeople airtime, it is an utter disgrace".

Shedding some light on why this is the case, David Miller of Strathclyde University said, "The fundamental problem with our media is the consensus to which they relate. This consensus is that of the political elite (including the government, the opposition, authoritative sources, the civil service, military experts and tame parts of academia). The assumption is that this consensus is the expression of a legitimate political system that bears some meaningful relationship to democracy. This is why our media, and especially the BBC, finds it so difficult to access anti-war voices even though they are a majority of public opinion according to recent polls."

The evening event may be a sign of things to come, as protest groups increasingly question the role of media. The question is, now that the BBC is becoming part of the story will viewers have to turn to SKY or ITV to find out about it?