A controversy is brewing in the UK involving a BBC report about the Labour Party’s anti-Semitism record – and the demands by the party for the program to be removed from the internet.
The allegation that high ranking Labor officials, among them General Secretary Jennie Formby, “interfered in anti-Semitism investigations” was made on BBC’s flagship Panorama documentary program.
Panorama based the reporting on statements its reporters obtained from a number of former Labour employees, including two who spoke despite the non-disclosure agreements they had signed.
Sam Matthews and Louise Withers Green have in the meantime decided to sue the party for its response to the program, which they said was defamatory towards them.
Labour previously rejected their accusations, and demanded that the BBC removes the program from its internet streaming service iPlayer – until it has been edited to include corrected facts, full quotes, and an apology, the party said.
In addition, a spokesman for the party said the allegations rested on statements of former staffers who had “personal and political axes to grind” against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The Panorama episode heard statements about anti-Semitism within the party and obstruction faced by those who tried to deal with the problem.
Former employees and whistleblowers accused the party of being “institutionally racist” and a toxic environment for its Jewish members.
Top Labour officials are accused of interfering with the party’s internal complaints system to make sure those accused of anti-Semitism didn’t suffer any serious consequences. According to the Panorama report, Formby and others would also overrule internal investigators’ findings.
However, despite Labor’s complaints, the BBC has said it “had no plans” to remove the episode, and defended “its journalism.”
Meanwhile, there have been disagreements among Labour officials on the issue, with some, like deputy leader Tom Watson, calling for the party to act and tackle the issue, while others, loyal to Corbyn, attacked Watson.
At the same time, 28 members of the British Parliament asked for an independent probe into the allegations.
Some senior members have also reportedly announced their resignations from the party.
The party, and Corbyn himself, have long been plagued by accusations of anti-Semitism.