BBC and website forums targeted by Home Office unit
- The Guardian, Tuesday August 26 2008
A Whitehall counter-terrorism unit is targeting the BBC and other media organisations as part of a new global propaganda push designed to “taint the al-Qaida brand”, according to a secret Home Office paper seen by the Guardian.
The document also shows that Whitehall counter-terrorism experts intend to exploit new media websites and outlets with a proposal to “channel messages through volunteers in internet forums” as part of their campaign.
The strategy is being conducted by the research, information and communication unit, [RICU] which was set up last year by the then home secretary, John Reid, to counter al-Qaida propaganda at home and overseas. It is staffed by officials from several government departments.
The report, headed, Challenging violent extremist ideology through communications, says: “We are pushing this material to UK media channels, eg a BBC radio programme exposing tensions between AQ leadership and supporters. And a restricted working group will communicate niche messages through media and non-media.”
The disclosure that a Whitehall counter-terrorism propaganda operation is promoting material to the BBC and other media will raise fresh concerns about official news management in a highly sensitive area.
The government campaign is based upon the premise that al-Qaida is waning worldwide and can appear vulnerable on issues such as declining popularity; its rejection by credible figures, especially religious ones, and details of atrocities.
The Whitehall propaganda unit is collecting material to target these vulnerabilities under three themes. They are that al-Qaida is losing support; “they are not heroes and don’t have answers; and that they harm you, your country and your livelihood”.