BBC Censors Radio Show About Honor Killing
Message About Group Pressure Removed
Author Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti is used to British censorship. In 2004, her play Behzti was stopped in Birmingham after the city's Sikh community protested against it.
Now, her script for the crime series DCI Stone in British Radio 4 has caught the public attention. The episode Heart of Darkness has the Detective Chief Inspector investigating the murder of a 16-year-old Asian girl. The case is difficult since it seems to be an honor killing and the Inspector gets the advice to approach it with care since the dead girl was a Muslim. But this statement wasn't problematic. Instead, a line at the end of the piece was since it suggested that the murder was induced by group pressure.
Kaur Bhatti had this to say at an anti-censorship conference:
“A week before recording I got an email from the producer saying the BBC compliance department had asked them to take lines out. [...] At the end, a character says: ‘There is so much pressure in our community, to look right and to behave right.’ The compliance department came back and said ‘we don’t want to suggest the entire Muslim community condones honour killings.’
“It’s an extraordinary and awful situation. They said the lines were offensive but they absolutely were not. We live in a fear-ridden culture."
“Unbelievably, what the compliance department said was if you can find a factual example of community pressure leading to an honour killing, you can have the line.
“It’s a crucial part of that story. I was very disappointed given my previous experience of censorship. If you take out the line, the whole thing changes, it’s a betrayal of the character and the truth of the unfolding story.” (Source)
Radio 4 defends the censorship:
“This is a hard-hitting drama about the realities of honour killing in Britain. A single line in the script could be taken to infer that the pressure and motivation to commit such a crime in a family comes from the wider Muslim community, potentially misrepresenting majority British Muslim attitudes to honour killing. Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was asked to amend this line in the normal editorial process of script development.”
The episode aired last Friday in its censored form in British radio.