BBC writer Thom Phipps advocates the murder of Julian Assange – Update

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Original Post published 11th December 2014 @22:00 and can be found archived here: https://archive.today/cENwy

Public executions exist in Saudia Arabia, as do police death squads in Kenya. Public executions and death squads are part of this country’s past too. Most of us are happy to keep such barbaric behaviours squarely in the past and through history many have given their lives for the recognition of human rights and the improvement of the human condition. Presumption of Innocence, Rule of Law, Protection of Life and Freedom we all value and take for granted.

You would not therefore expect the British Broadcasting Corporation to employ Mr Phipps in writing a comedy about Julian Assange when the former has publicly advocated for the public extrajudicial assassination of the latter.

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This is shocking, wrong, dangerous.

Julian Assange’s health is deteriorating due to his current living conditions, unable to enjoy his political asylum due to the British Government’s decision to not recognise Ecuador granting him this. Instead, the UK government has spent more than £8 million in surveilling him and the operation of WikiLeaks as well as Ecuador’s Ambassadorial business conducted on the premises. The Metropolitan Police attempted a raid on the embassy in the summer 2012 which was halted at the very last minute and they ‘guard’ Assange 24/7 since then. Anti-Terrorist units SS10 SS20 have also been reportedly employed in the operation.

That the BBC would find it tasteful to make a comedy out of the situation is incredible. That they choose to spend our public money by paying Mr Phipps’ fees in penning what can only be a character assassination against Julian Assange is unacceptable.

Is the BBC unaware of the government’s latest Terrorism panacea ‘Prevent’ that states:

‘Extremist propaganda is too widely available, particularly online, and has a direct impact on radicalising individuals. The poisonous messages of extremists must not be allowed to drown out the voices of the moderate majority.’

So why would they employ a person with exactly such extreme views to pen a ‘comedy’ called ‘Asylum’ inspired by the story of Julian Assange?

Further statements by Mr Phipps express pleasure in the crucifixion of the WikiLeaks Editor:

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Do they forget? Character Assassination is supposed to be a metaphor.

My complain to the BBC about planned comedy programme “Asylum”:

In this Guardian Article here: https://archive.today/lPfKh the program is described as :

[…] BBC4 comedy about a government whistleblower inspired by Julian Assange’s two-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy. The BBC is billing Asylum as “a satirical comedy about a government whistleblower and a millionaire internet entrepreneur trapped together in a London embassy” and:

”Written by Thom Phipps and Peter Bowden, the comedy is part of a BBC season next year called Taking Liberties, celebrating 800 years of Magna Carta and exploring democracy in the run-up to the general election.”

Today, it has come to my attention via the WikiLeaks Twitter feed that Mr Phipps has publicly stated on Twitter on 16 Aug 2012: ”if the met want to regain my trust they should drag Assange out the embassy + shoot him in the back of th head in the middle of traf square” https://archive.today/GOeWf#selection-631.0-983.21

I find it offensive that Mr Phipps who has publicly incited violence and propagated the murder of Mr Assange, has been employed by the BBC to write a comedy about him for broadcast by BBC4 .

Mr Assange is an innocent man who has been offered political asylum (see here: https://archive.today/enNjW) to protect his life from forces that wish to harm him, including calls for his assassination by US politicians.

Mr Phipps has called for Mr Assange’s assassination, going against the most fundamental principals of Magna Carta.

It is shameful, it is dangerous, BBC must act now.

Update 29th January 2015

Due to the continuous interest in this issue, here is an update.

The BBC responded to my complaint on the 21st of December as follows:

Dear Mrs Butlin

Reference CAS-3059434-XJDVPW

Thanks for contacting us regarding

We apologise for the delay in replying. We realise that our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we’re sorry that you had to wait on this occasion.

I understand you are unhappy with comments made by Mr Phillips on his personal twitter account.

Unfortunately Mr Philip’s is not a BBC member of staff and is not representing the BBC.

Therefore we will not be commenting on Twitter posts made by third parties.

Mr Phipps is a comedy writer so it could be assumed his comment is almost certainly intended to be taken as a joke rather than a genuine call for Mr Assange to be murdered.

I’m grateful to you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us and I’d like to assure you that we value your feedback highly. The comments we receive from our audience help to inform decisions regarding future programming and go towards improving our services.

Kind regards
Sean Lonergan
BBC Complaints
http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

I was disappointed at the response to my complaint. It was sloppy (misquoting Mr Phipps name) and superficial. Dismissing my complaint on the basis that he is not a BBC member of staff or that he is a comedian therefore he is joking, was a clear misdirection of the issue I was raising.

Whatever Mr Phipps private views might be, he is entitled to them, however unpleasant and dangerous we may find them. That he chooses to express them publicly in Twitter inciting mortal violence, expressing pleasure in crucifixion, stating his loathing for Julian Assange, he exercises his right of freedom of expression until his comments attract, if appropriate, the attention of a public prosecutor or the police, just like the rest of us. The issue is, how on earth does the BBC give this clearly prejudiced man, a man who clearly holds extreme views with regards to Julian Assange, the opportunity to write a three part series for the BBC. Is the BBC not responsible for the content it broadcasts? Is this the kind of programme the BBC wants to create, entertaining us, challenging us and celebrating Magna Carta? When one reads the tweets Mr Phipps writes does one expect the product of his pen to be anything other than unpleasant de-humanising prejudice of the kind that radicalises, leads to violence, albeit masked in comedy? The BBC is not a commercial operation producing trash for a five minute entertainment consumption. It is the State Broadcaster with a mandate to be fair and educate, financed directly by the public.

My complaint was alerting the BBC to this man’s prejudiced and extreme views that I found offensive, they would obviously be reflected on the programme’s content, but the BBC were clearly not concerned.

When I heard from a friend, who also complained to the BBC that she received an identical reply to the one above, including spelling errors, I gave up entirely in any further attempt in correspondence with the BBC on the matter.

I concluded that this was the exact content that the BBC wished to see in the programme.

Since then, the horrifying events in France on January 7th 2015, the Charlie Hebdo shooting, brought death and horror against a publisher and their staff, drove home to me further the dangers that WikiLeaks and its staff face, as the foremost radical publishers of our times, and the repeated threats against the life and safety of Julian Assange. Once again Mr Phipps comments came into my mind and the BBC’s response.

What can one do, when no one listens, but to write another letter? and so in my letter to the London Assembly members of the 16th of January informing them of the latest in the Julian Assange case (they scrutinise Mayor’s decision on Metropolitan Police spending) I included a reference:

How much more discrimination and oppression will state institutions bestow upon the founder and publisher of WikiLeaks? Even the BBC is adding to the media war against him. The forthcoming BBC4 comedy programme ‘Asylum’ that is supposed to celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta becomes another opportunity to de-humanise him and humiliate his condition. One of the writers of the programme has expressed in twitter on 16 Aug 2012:

”if the met want to regain my trust they should drag Assange out the embassy + shoot him in the back of th head in the middle of traf square” [6]

My complaint to the BBC about Mr Phipps’ extreme views was dismissed by their Mr Lonergan (CAS-3059434) as “Mr Phipps is a comedy writer so it could be assumed his comment is almost certainly intended to be taken as a joke rather than a genuine call for Mr Assange to be murdered.” Is the BBC comfortable with such content being broadcasted to the British nation that has full understanding of the historic sectarian role of policing in Northern Ireland? Or the crimes perpetrated on radical Freedom of Expression publishers like the ones we witnessed in France against Charlie Hebdo? Mr Phipps certainly holds such extreme views whether he clothes them in his art is irrelevant. He is free to express his private views but what is BBC4 doing hiring such a person to write ‘Assange-inspired comedy Asylum’?

I have not received a reply from any of them yet, none may ever come, but that Saturday the 24th the makers of the programme went public with an article in the Independent defending the programme before it was even broadcasted.

The article of course contains no incitement to violence. We are even given a single quote from the script, (Was it Mr Phipps handiwork?):

“Last year he was hot s**t. Now he’s room-temperature s**t. Which is s**t.”

Of course the article is quick to quote the usual lie: Assange “still faces a rape charge”. The truth is, there are no charges raised against him neither in Sweden nor elsewhere. He is sought for questioning and ready to oblige but unwilling to give up his political asylum, that protects his life and work at WikiLeaks.

But many are the truths that are not mentioned, and if you want to know the truth John Pilger’s War by media and the triumph of propaganda or his special investigation The siege of Julian Assange is a farce will put you in the right direction.

On a final note, The Ecuadorian Embassy is in Hans Crescent where I often stand with others in a respectful solidarity vigil in support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. As we stand, facing the 24/7 police operation for the third year running, we often engage with the local residences or the passers by who tell us about the area. It is a mostly sunless place because of its layout, but its darkest place lies in its history.  As I stand on the pavement, holding my ‘Don’t Shoot the Messenger” poster and thinking of Mr Phipps’ comments and what his ‘comedy’ has in store for Julian Assange, it is this image of carnage that I bring to mind and I think, never again. Never again should respect for others, respect for life mean so little.

‘Asylum’ is scheduled for broadcast at BBC4 on February 10th.

https://archive.today/X5BUa#selection-1687.0-1703.1
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http://archive.today/GOeWf
https://archive.today/Rhc2y
https://archive.today/x9onn
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Update 30/01/2015:

After http://www.chortle.co.uk/ shown an interest in the story I updated my blogpost above and send them a link.They have produced an article with the title: Fury over BBC writer’s ‘kill Assange’ tweet  I would like to quote from it:

When Chortle asked about Phipps’ tweets and his role writing Asylum, a BBC spokesperson replied only: ‘Asylum is a completely fictitious comedy based on the whistleblower culture and we are pleased to have the show as part of the BBC’s Taking Liberties democracy season.’

The BBC statement on the content of ‘Asylum’ is again misdirecting by not taking a position on the matter raised. Furthermore, it is simply false that “‘Asylum’ is a completely fictitious comedy”. Mr Novak, the producer answering Ms Lee’s (The Independent) question on the matter said and I quote:

Did he and Thostrup consider making the lead character the actual Assange? “There was a debate about that,” says Novak, “but in making Dan not Assange, we could torture his ego by making him somebody who wants to be as notorious as Assange but never can be. And that way we didn’t have to cast a white-haired Australian guy ….”

So, the decision to not name the character ‘Assange’ was one of poetic expedience plus the practical challenge of casting an Australian? In all other ways it is very much about Assange. I wonder whether the BBC spokesman has actually read the script or seen the programme?

Update 27/11/2015:

How much was 2LE the Production company of ‘Asylum’ get paid for? Here is my Freedom of Information Request to the BBC, let’s see what answer shall we get.

From: Emmy Butlin

27 November 2015

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

Please be so kind as to inform me the cost to the BBC of producing
and Broadcasting programme “Asylum” broadcasted on BBC4 in February
2015 in three parts: on the 9th of February Episode name ‘Strange
Bedfellows’, 16th of February ‘Project Siren’, 23rd of February
‘Public Relations’.

Including:

1. Overall cost of Production and broadcasting
2. Fees paid to third parties in particular to 2LE, the independent
production company that created the show.

Furthermore, please inform me of all registered complaints you
received about the Programme
and any internal correspondence dealing with those complaints.

Yours faithfully,

Mrs Emmy Butlin
BBC License Payer

Update 1/12/2015 : My FOIR rejected by the BBC

Via email: request-304910-faaab216@whatdotheyknow.com

1st December 2015

Dear Mrs Butlin,

Freedom of Information request – RFI20152024

Thank you for your request to the BBC of 27 November, seeking the following information under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000: [repeating my request]

The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes
of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to
you and will not be doing so on this occasion. Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that
information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act
if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature”. The BBC is not
required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information
that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.

[…]

Yours sincerely,

Paul Kettle
BBC Television

For the complete reply see:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/304910/response/739965/attach/3/RFI20152024%20Final%20Response.pdf
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/304910/response/739965/attach/html/3/RFI20152024%20Final%20Response.pdf.html
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/request_for_cost_information_for#incoming-739965

Update May 2016:

The BBC may not have revealed how much they spent on the anti-Assange propaganda piece ‘Asylum’ but the main production company did publish their financial statements for that year (2014/2015) which I place below.

Abbreviated accounts for the year ending 30 June 2015 for 2LE Media (see Pdf here:112014321)

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The financial statements were approved by the Board of Directors 21 March 2016 and were signed on its behalf by T Thostrup – Director

A tidy sum was made by that company that year, their only work that they produced from my modest search was ‘Asylum’ for the BBC.

http://archive.is/usdra
http://archive.is/usdra

So the BBC rewards well those who deliver on its ‘mandate’ whether is serves to educate or to prejudice. In this case I believe it is very much the case for the latter so I have updated the Wikipedia page of the programme to include the controversy the programme caused.

It is also interesting to note that 2LE partnered with All3Media ( purchased by Discovery Communications and Liberty Global in 2014) giving the latter first-look rights for an undisclosed sum. According to http://www.c21media.net: “The first project to come from the partnership is Asylum, a 3×30’ comedy drama produced for BBC4 as part of the pubcaster’s Taking Liberties season.” So perhaps the above accounts above include this undisclosed sum. Only a further breakdown would clearly indicate how much the BBC paid 2LE to produce such a propaganda piece like the ‘Asylum’.

 

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