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tv   The Media Show  BBC News  January 29, 2022 4:30pm-5:01pm GMT

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snow for the scotland, some snow for the mountains. definitely a colderfeel for sunday and then we will see the rain sinking south over sunday. the low centre will be the biggest cause for concern, running across northern scotland on diving down to the north sea on monday. these are the areas the met office is most concerned about at the moment. hello, this is bbc news — with rebecca jones. the headlines: the us warns that the russian troop build—up near ukraine is the largest since the cold war — as attempts to find a diplomatic solution continue.
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the downing street lockdown parties report is now expected to be delivered before the metropolitan police inquiry ends. a woman has been killed by a falling tree as strong winds from storm malik batter northern parts of the uk. five states declare emergencies and more than 5000 flights are cancelled — as the us east coast braces for a major blizzard to hit the region. a more detailed study is under way after pilot research finds some people with long covid may have hidden damage to their lungs. ash barty wins the australian open tennis to become first home winner in 44 years. canadian singer—songwriter joni mitchell hasjoined neil young in calling for her music to be taken off spotify.
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now on bbc news, it's time for the media show, with katie razzall. hello. a major trial will take place this year in the us. you'll remember the story behind it. el shafee elsheikh is accused of being a member of the islamic state group and of being one of the notorious is beatles. so named by their hostages because of their british accents and accused of torturing and beheading journalists and aid workers. itv news�* rohit kachroo secured interviews with el shafee elsheikh and another man before they were transferred into us custody. those interviews are to form part of the trial. so, what are the ethics of interviewing some of the members of a terror group? is it ever ok to give what amounts to be publicity to people accused of such serious crimes? and how you even go about doing it? welcome to the media show,
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and let's start right at beginning of the story. who were the is beatles and when did you first come across them? everyone will remember years ago, 2014, 2015, the rise, the rapid rise of islamic state group, isis. and the fact that they started this process of taking western hostages. but then not only were we hearing the news about it, but we were seeing video of it. this group was filming the executions by beheading, and they were posting these in stylised propaganda videos online. it became clear that there was a group here of four british men who some of the hostages referred to as the beatles because there were four of them, because of their british accents. and what we knew was that one of the figures, who turned out to be a leading figure,
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was this man had been mysteriously referred to as "jihadi john" but people didn't who he was. we knew that the authorities in the uk and the us had a fairly good idea who he was. we, like many organisations, set out to try to identify them and actually the first scoop went to the washington post, which reported around the same time as lucy manning at the bbc the name ofjihadijohn as mohammed emwazi. you did make it your mission to identify some of the others. how did you do it? who did you identify? how did you track them down? piecing together rumours that different people had heard. here in london, but also out in syria. things that were being said in the corridors in whitehall and these names kept recurring. alexanda kotey, el shafee elsheikh. we talked at length to some of the hostages who were released. we tried to find pictures to show them. at one point, we found
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an old dating website profile for alexanda kotey. there were a lot ofjournalists looking at this, and it was a really difficult process. this may be a ridiculous question based on what was going on in the country and how dangerous it was, but once you identified them, were you trying to make contact with them? is it possible to make contact with someone from is? do they have a press office? can they put someone up for interview? i know it's highly unlikely. there is no press office for islamic state group. there were routes into the group. you know, for example, many people who left their own homes, who left their own countries to go out there were in contact with their families back home. what became clear pretty early on was that these men weren't just sort of roaming around the shops, you know, they weren't just strolling around the street in raqqa saying hello to people in the cafe. these were protected people, so protected they were conscious of their digital
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footprint, they were conscious of their location. because, remember, you know, the uk government wanted to track them down. and actuallyjihadi john, mohammed emwazi, was eventually killed by a drone strike, and they knew that they were wanted men. so, we had no direct contact with them. the next thing that happened was that, mysteriously, suddenly they turned up in a kurdish prison. just before we get into the detail of how you then met two of them, just let's talk about the victims and their families. you know, just remind us who were the victims. these were largely aid workers and journalists. they were people who had gone out to syria to do good things. in the case of people like james foley, the american journalist, he went out there to tell the stories of suffering in syria. and also aid workers, people like david haines from perth in scotland, who had gone out to
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syria to help people. they all left behind these families, including here in the uk and several in the us as well. and families you made contact with. why did you do that? i know, i can see obviously it adds a human element, but i think there are also risks involved. do you worry about re—traumatising people, about asking families to live, relive what must have been the worst experiences of their lives? yeah, we asked ourselves and have asked ourselves over the last five, six years almost every possible ethical question injournalism. the first family member who we had regular contact with was the daughter of david haines, bethany haines, who was incredibly young at the time. she was at school. she was a teenager when her father was taken hostage. and actually some of those early contacts came, you know, on a very basic level because we were seeking comment on events that were happening,
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including, for example, the moment thatjihadijohn, mohammed emwazi, was killed by a drone strike. we wanted to know what people thought, what people who were directly affected thought. you know, that was a sort of legitimate journalistic exercise. but over the years, i think we've become closer to many of them. let's get into a bit more of the detail about the interviews that you then got. i think you had several. can you just quickly sum up who you spoke to and when? so, we interviewed el shafee elsheikh and alexanda kotey. these were the two members of the so—called is beatles who were then later transferred to the united states. you know, getting interviews with these people was not easy. word came back early on, i'm not sure if this is true, that kotey didn't want to give an interview to itv news. and the suggestion was because
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of our role in putting his name out there in the first place, he had particular reticence in terms of speaking to us. what changed his mind? did you hear? well, i'm not sure. we went to north—east syria seeking to do other stories. so when you went out there, you didn't know you're getting interview with him? no, we did not. no, we went out there with bethany haines, the daughter of david haines, the murdered aid worker, and the reason we were there was because we wanted to follow her journey. she had this invitation from the kurdish authorities to go and to see some of the locations that were significant in her father's story. because although his execution site has never been officially located, one estimate says it was near here. she has studied the landscape in his execution video so many times before, and finally she's now here. she can't be certain,
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but this does look familiar. it would definitely be the hills with the tracks because that's really evident in the video that there's a track going down behind him. it makes you just want to go off and try and find him, which is something that i can't do. but to know it's somewhere out there, it does provide a bit of comfort. we were there, we got essentially a tap on the shoulder by the kurdish authorities. we were given the opportunity to meet elsheikh and kotey. and without going into too much detail, what did they say to you in those interviews? well, i went in with the specific aim of asking questions on behalf of bethany. they had done interviews with cnn, with aptn and with the washington post about their journey, about their story. you know, we were mindful of the fact that we had
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perhaps only 15 minutes to talk to them. and at that point, they were very clear that they were innocent, right? because i understand that since alexanda kotey has changed his plea. yeah, well, innocent... sort of innocent with caveats, i think you might say. they admitted in that conversation that they had... what they termed as a peripheral role, that they were, you know, elsheikh said he was driving the van, so i asked specific questions about david haines. what sort of answers are you able to offer bethany? i can't answer- specific questions. i can only offer answers - to things which i witnessed. as for the execution - and the remains, i'm afraid i can't offer any answers - to those questions cos i don't have any knowledge of it. he said his role was to take hostages from place to place. did you move david haines from place to place?
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i moved a bunch of prisoners. what about david haines? he could have been amongst them. - you don't remember? when you're driving a van, you don't do a headcount. | it is not yourjob. yourjob is to drive a van. so you would drive a van which included some of the hostages? yeah. and where were you driving from and to? wherever they told me. for both of them, they became quite confrontational. alexanda kotey particularly. i already had made... forget what you said before. i'm asking you, will you apologise to bethany haines? i won't forget everything i've said before because ijust find it... will you apologise to bethany haines? i find your line of questioning irritating. will you apologise to her? apologise. .. to bethany haines? i think i've already said that. no, you haven't. maybe it didn't get broadcast maybe. alexanda kotey said that we were doing this interview purely for entertainment and he didn't want to give
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itv the opportunity to have an entertainment show, which felt like an unusual admission, because actually before those conversations took place, you know, i had a pre—conversation where i looked each of them in the eye and i said, "do you want to do this interview?" you know, we hadn't gone to north—east syria with the idea of doing a conversation with these people. you know, if they turned around and said, "no, we don't want to do this," we were more than prepared to get up and walk out the room. and coming in, you know, we had a group with our editor here, our head of news—gathering, head of foreign news that we were updating them on every single thing that happened, but you know, at no point to any of the people say, "listen, you've got to get the interview." and...
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but they had to sign it off? bbc, other institutions have very strict rules on this about interview of criminals? absolutely, yeah. and actually, you know, i was always mindful of the fact that whatever happened in that room could subsequently be used in a court of law, this may well be scrutinised by a jury at some point in the future. so, how high up did the sign—off have to be? at what level did it go? did it go up to, i don't know, the likes of who's soon to come to the bbc, but is now head of itn? yeah, this was signed off by the editor, it was signed off by senior managers at itv as well. and part of the conversation around that was what happened in the room? for example, there were armed kurdish guards inside that room. it's a prison. perhaps that's not surprising, but one of the things me and the producer and the cameraman turned around and said to the kurdish supervisor was they cannot be in here. you know, i'm not going to do an interview with an armed man from a militia group standing behind me almost guarding this conversation. explain to audiences why
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you're worried about that. you know, we didn't want to have conversations with people that were leading news at ten and we are making a big splash of with people who had been mistreated or people who we knew had been forced to give the interviews that they gave. the answers that they gave to us in our conversations. there were four of us from itv news. there was a senior producer, a middle east producer, who has covered conflict zones and the sorts of areas quite a lot. we had a senior cameraman, markjervis, who covers violence in belfast, and we had our well plugged—in local producer, what some would call the local fixer. we were all in this room and we had the conversation and we made the call there and then on the ground. our internet connection was slipping away, you know, we didn't have the opportunity at the last moment to just get a double—check from the editor.
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but i think they trusted us to make the right decision and i'm really confident that we did make the right decision. and i know now in the trial of elsheikh that that issue of those media interviews and the ethics around some of those conversations will play quite differently. will play quite significantly. yeah, and we'll talk about the trial in a moment. just to summarise, if you wouldn't mind, what you think came out of your specific interviews with those two men? what did they say? well, alexanda kotey admitted for the first time in one of our interviews that he played some sort of role. in previous conversations, he pretty much said i had nothing to do with this. but in that first interview that we did in 2019, he said, "yeah, you know, i was peripherally involved," as he termed it, but he actually admitted that he was sending proof of life e—mails, e—mails which i've read now from the other side, from the families of the victims,
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he was sending proof of life e—mails to families particularly in united states demanding ransoms from the family of one of the hostages. he was in touch with herfamily. her elderly parents in arizona, demanding that they pay or that they raise millions and millions of euros to pay a ransom in order to secure the release of their daughter. so, he admitted for the first time publicly that in our first interview. and he has since pleaded guilty, hasn't he? he has since pleaded guilty and admitted all charges in the united states. our final conversation with el shafee elsheikh and alexanda kotey had a slightly different aim. we were there with the story of one person in mind, the family of david haines. and we thought that it would be a legitimate and an important editorial exercise to try to seek from him the truth.
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if he had it, if either of these men had it about what happened to this british hostage who was killed on camera. and, you know, he admitted to some things, but he still said, "listen, i don't know the details." it's now turned out that in his interviews with us interrogators, which happened around the same time, it's now been revealed in court that in fact he did give specific details about the death of david haines. and so that was the importance of the interviews. for alexanda kotey, he sort of shouted at me and said, "i don't like your line of questioning," and he said, "you're just here to create entertainment." you know... were you? no, no, we really weren't. and actually, you know, it's a typical difficult line it's a difficult line to tread because you know that these conversations necessarily have to be, at the very least, slightly
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confrontational. what would you say to her about what's happened to herfather? i've already said what i had to say, i haven't got anything else to add. what would you say to bethany haines about what happened her father? i've already said what i have to say. she wants to know where the remains of her father are. i'm the wrong person to ask. if i had information about that, then we wouldn't be sitting here having this discussion, so... and we knew, we knew through all of this that at some point the police would want that material. which is a difficult ethical journalistic question. because they have, you know, increased powers under the terrorism act to seek material that they feel can help a terrorist investigation. and, look, we've been here before.
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we've gone to court to not hand over the rushes, the un—broadcast material of an interview that i did with shamima begum because we didn't feel that the line had been crossed. ok, but you are... sorry to interrupt, but you are in the business of making television, so just tell me how you turned it into television. where were you putting it out? was it news at ten, was it trailed? what we ended up doing was running a three—part series which led news at ten. on the first night, we ran for eight minutes, which is fairly almost unprecedented in itv news terms and news bulletin terms. we ran an eight—minute film which charted herjourney to syria, which talked about her feelings about going there. you know... including the interviews or not? no, it did not. we held that for the following night. and then we trailed that at the end of our story on news at ten that night.
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and then the following nights, we returned on news at ten with our conversation off the back of our story with bethany, which naturally followed on. and, look, it was... it was gripping television, people said, but... and also a great business presumably for itv, which is a commercial entity, after all. i can't say we made a penny out of it. i guess it's good for us in terms of our... we're here to tell stories and we're here to tell them well and we're here to tell stories the bbc aren't telling and channel 4 news are not telling or sky aren't telling. you know, there's no money to be made on an assignment like that. in fact, these things are expensive. there is only a lot of money to be lost. you touched earlier on the ethics, but clearly there were some major ethical questions. is it ethical to interview a member of is at all? are you humanising or
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potentially whitewashing what they did? what do you think about that? one of the things that changed the dynamic was that by this point, by early autumn of 2019, we had passed the territorial defeat of is. they no longer had a so—called caliphate. they were no longer on the rise. there was no stream of british people. you can remember several years ago, there were hundreds of people from the uk that were going out tojoin is. that was no longer happening. and so, as a consequence of that, this question of whether we were giving the oxygen of publicity to a group like that felt like it was less of a concern, but because of that, because of those concerns, it was all the more important for me to be robust in my questioning. it was an exercise in seeking brand—new information to make our reporting better, to make our viewers better informed. can ijust ask you to bring us
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up to the present, if you like? there if this trial about to start in america. just tell us who is accused and how are they pleading. well, el shafee elsheikh is the fourth member of this, alleged fourth member of this cell. he was brought to the us at the same time as alexanda kotey, and he says he's not guilty. kotey pleaded guilty a few weeks ago. elsheikh didn't do the same thing, and actually as part of kotey�*s plea deal, he will not be compelled to testify against his old friend, el shafee elsheikh. so, he is accused of being involved in the kidnap, the holding hostage and the killing of... it's the american hostages who appear on the charge sheet. because it's an american trial. exactly, it's an american trial in an american court. and your interviews are being
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used along with those from the washington post, sky, various other organisations. can you explain what those interviews are being used for? firstly, these were the last interviews done with them in kurdish custody. and what the defence is saying is that they were mistreated, that food was withheld. what the prosecution is saying is actually this interview shows how they looked just days before they were transferred to us custody, and their argument is actually they look like they're in good health and in good shape. but there's another important part which the prosecution want to draw out, which is comparing what elsheikh told me in our conversation in september 2019 and what he was telling american interrogators. because it's different. exactly. ok, so, that trial will start soon. before we end this conversation, let's have a think about the bigger picture in a sense. we're in the middle of a global pandemic right now.
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these crimes took place quite a long time ago. i think david haines was murdered in 2014. how much coverage do you expect the british media to give the trial? is there still the interest that there was? it's a really, really interesting question, and i hope there is significant coverage because, you know, we move on from things so quickly, don't we? the news cycle churns. absolutely. i mean, i was looking through material from the time thatjihadi john was killed the other day. you know, it was david cameron making that statement, and... quite a few prime ministers since then. yeah, absolutely. i mean, there are very, very few more serious allegations that have been made against people who were raised in the uk. important because, you know, the importance to their victims who still have to endure
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the torment and the torture and the agony, and still don't know where their loved ones' remains are. but important to all of us as a society, as a country, really, to try and understand why this happened. i mean, you know, we can just sort of dismiss these cases as one—offs, but they're not one—offs. i mean, here was a cell of four people who operated within a vast infrastructure within is. and then there were hundreds of british people who decided, many of them, perhaps most of them, knowing full well the reality of life in is, that actually it would be a good thing to go and live there. so, you know, i hope that this trial reopens a window perhaps in people's thoughts into the story of this organisation. and most importantly into the story of its victims. rohit kachroo, global security editor at itv news, thank you so much forjoining us today. the media show will be
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back at the same time next week, but for now, thanks for listening and goodbye. hello, stormy times for the uk this weekend. saturday has seen northern uk battered by malik, scenes like these quite common across eastern scotland. lots of trees down to stop this is that the area where the wind really peaked in that their gust units. tomorrow, similar conditions are from another store, this time then by the uk met office, corrie. corrie will have the potential to cause very similar
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gusts of wind. by the time get into saturday night, malik is off to scandinavia. we will see a ridge of high pressure building across the uk. in comparison to earlier, it will be almost eerily quiet. the winds for light, the skies will clear. we are likely to see a frost developing, particularly across the eastern side of the uk. sunday will don with sparkling sunshine, widespread clear skies and just like wins. all the while coming towards the north—west and deepening as it does so, an area of low pressure. this is the beginnings of corrie. rain into another island and western scotland by lunchtime. hla feel for sunday across the board, nine or ten across the south, lots of dry and sunny weather for england and wales.
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this low centre running across northern scotland and down into the north sea will produce strong winds and likely cause some damage and destruction. this is the warning area as outlined by the met office at the moment. it will be updated again throughout the course of the next 2a hours. the wind strength across the eastern side of scotland and north—east of england could be pretty similar, gusting up to 80 mph. through monday, the winds will start to ease, there will actually be quite a lot of sunshine across the uk but quite a chilly north—westerly wind. temperatures on mondayjust six or 7
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this is bbc news. the headlines at 5pm... a woman has been killed — and thousands have been left without power as storm malik batter northern parts of the uk, and as forecasters warn storm corrie will bring further high winds tomorrow. as the ukraine border crisis continues, borisjohnson is to travel to eastern europe — and telephone the russian president in the coming days. senior conservative mps join the opposition in calling for the report on downing street parties, during lockdowns, to be published in full. a more detailed study is under way after initial research finds some people with long covid may have hidden damage to their lungs. ash barty wins the australian open tennis to become first home winner in 44 years
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and, the cold water swimmers who swear that a dip in the icy sea

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