Sinn Fein in court over BBC Poll ban

Go away and think about decision broadcaster told

The BBC was accused of censorship by Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey after a High Court judge told the broadcaster to go away and think about its decision to ban the party from news coverage.


A High Court judge last night advised the BBC to undertake “mature reflection” before adopting an “irreversible” position on its electoral coverage of Sinn Fein. Justice Kerr was speaking at High Court proceedings taken by Sinn Fein over bias allegations against the broadcaster.

Sinn Féin are furious that they received no coverage on the BBC news on Tuesday and have angrily rejected BBC claims that they were unable to give Sinn Féin coverage because they had already featured Martin McGuinness in their coverage of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

The purpose of last night’s proceedings was to secure an injunction against the BBC and receipt of an undertaking from the broadcaster that all of its subsequent election coverage will treat Sinn Féin equally with other parties.

Sinn Féin yesterday also renewed its demand that the broadcaster should be designated as a public authority to bring it under the scope of equality legislation.

Sinn Féin’s anger relates to the edition of Newsline 6.30 that was broadcast on Tuesday evening. An editorial decision to exclude any coverage of Sinn Féin from that day’s round-up of election coverage was branded "nothing short of political discrimination and censorship" by the party’s South Belfast representative, Alex Maskey.

"The Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was interviewed at the close of nominations on Tuesday,” said Mr Maskey
"All of the other main parties received their allocation of time yet no contribution from Sinn Féin was screened. The BBC claimed that Martin McGuinness appearing at the Saville Tribunal was election coverage," said the former Mayor.

"Sinn Féin will not accept this situation. We suffered years of state-enforced censorship and, since then, years of informal bias by the BBC.

"This latest incident proves the need for the speedy designation of the BBC as a public authority under the Section 75 Equality Duty. This is something Sinn Féin has demanded privately and publicly," said Cllr Maskey.

Responding to a series of detailed queries from the Andersonstown News, a BBC spokesperson issued the following statement: "The BBC applies strict editorial standards during an election campaign and maintains balanced representation across our airwaves."

In a second statement issued last night, the BBC said simply that it had adhered to ‘Producer Guidelines’ during Tuesday’s broadcast.
The High Court proceedings were adjourned last night and will resume this morning.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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