BBC panned for bias in support of stoning

  • post Type / Members and partners
  • Date / 9 September 2010

Namazie, from IHEU member organization the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, is protesting against “gross
inaccuracies” and “biased reporting” in a BBC TV show on stoning in Iran.  Namazie is especially concerned that the show
will add legitimacy to the Iranian government’s planned execution of Sakineh
Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has been the focus of an international campaign since she was sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery.

–photo of Maryam Namazie by Reza Moradi

5 September 2010, BBC Sunday Live debated ‘whether it is right to condemn Iran for
stoning’. Much of the debate focused on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.
Namazie had been invited to join the debate on webcam, but then was denied the
opportunity to speak. However, the programme did interview two other people via
webcam, both of whom were in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s stoning
and/or execution. Furthermore, the show’s presenter repeatedly provided
misinformation on Sakineh’s case and on the practice of stoning in Iran.

response, Namazie has issued the following “Open letter to BBC Sunday Live on
its unfair and biased reporting”:

the BBC’s Sunday Live Programme

am writing to ask that you rectify gross inaccuracies regarding Sakineh
Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case and that of stoning in Iran in your upcoming programme.

Susanna Reid repeatedly provided misinformation on Sakineh’s case and on the
practice of stoning in Iran
during the 5 September debate on whether it was ‘right to condemn Iran for

first major inaccuracies were regarding the practice of stoning in Iran.

the clip preceding the debate, Susanna Reid said that ‘the Iranian government
says it is stopping stoning as a punishment for adultery and homosexuality.’
During the debate, she said: ‘Officially the Iranian government does not
condone stoning. There has been an official moratorium since 2002. Officially
it has been dropped from the penal code.’ Obviously these two statements
contradict one another – either the Iranian government has stopped stoning or
it is stopping it, but has not yet done so.

fact, stoning is still part of the penal code. Moreover, despite a 2002
moratorium (which is not the same as officially dropping stoning from its penal
code), 19 people have been stoned since and including 2002.

far from being rare, as Ms Reid stressed on a number of occasions, there have
been 150 known cases of death by stoning since 1980 with more than 20 people
awaiting death by stoning in Iran
right now, including Azar Bagheri who was 15 when she was arrested (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/02/iranian-woman-stoning-death-penalty).
The list of those stoned or awaiting death by stoning compiled by the International
Committee against Executions can be found here: http://stopstonningnow.com/wpress/SList%20_1980-2010__FHdoc.pdf.

contrary to the comments provided by the Islamic Sharia Council, stoning
sentences are issued not only when there are four witnesses but also as a
result of confession, thus explaining why Ms Ashtiani was forced to ‘confess’
on TV, clearly under duress.

other important inaccuracy was that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been
sentenced to execution for the murder of her husband. This was mentioned a
number of times in the programme without providing information to the contrary.

fact, Ms Ashtiani has been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and not
for murdering her husband. At a 30 July press conference in London, Mina Ahadi of the International
Committee against Execution and International Committee against Stoning and I
provided evidence of the stoning verdict (http://iransolidarity.blogspot.com/2010/07/help-me-stay-alive-and-hug-my-children.html).
You can see a copy of the actual court judgment of stoning for adultery here: http://www.iransolidarity.org.uk/act_now.html.

has never been found guilty of murdering her husband in an Iranian court. Even
the man who was found guilty of her husband’s murder has not been executed. In Iran, under
Diyeh laws, the family of the victim can ask for the death penalty to be
revoked. Sakineh’s 22 year old son, Sajjad, explains why he and his 17 year old
sister spared the man’s life in an interview with French writer and
philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy: http://stopstonningnow.com/wpress/3618.

reason the Islamic regime of Iran
is branding her a murderer and denying sentences of death by stoning for
adultery is because of the international campaign in her defence and against
the medieval and brutal punishment of stoning. It hopes to provide legitimacy
for her execution now that it may not be able to stone her because of the
public outcry. Unfortunately your programme has done the same.

that a woman’s life is at stake, it becomes all the more urgent for your
programme to rectify its inaccuracies.

look forward to your immediate response and action.

Maryam Namazie


1. The programme can be seen here until next Sunday: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sy9fl
and begins at 47.00 minutes.

2. Under the Sharia punishment of stoning, the victim is buried in a hole in the ground, males up to their waist and females up to their chest, and then tortured to death by having stones thrown at them. The stones should not be so big that they kill the victim quickly, nor so small that they don’t seriously hurt. The aim is to kill the person gradually with the utmost pain.

WordPress theme developer - whois: Andy White London