High Court Deems BBC’s Prevention from Broadcasting an Interview with Terrorism Suspect Unlawful

In British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) & Anor, R (on the application of) v Ahmad (Rev 1) [2012] EWHC 13 Amin, the High Court ruled that the Justice Secretary’s decision to refuse the BBC permission to broadcast an interview with Babar Ahmad, a man suspected of terrorism, was unlawful. Babar Ahmad had had an extradition order from the United States, but the European Court of Human Rights gave the UK an indication that his extradition should be stayed according to the European Convention on Human Rights Article 3 on anti-torture and inhumane treatment. Ahmad remained in prison without conviction or trial for seven years. The Justice Secretary’s refusal to grant the BBC permission to broadcast an interview with Ahmad was based on the argument that it risked allowing prisoners a chance to justify their behavior, which may cause distress to victims of their crimes and could weaken the confidence of the public in the criminal justice system. The BBC’s position was that the Justice Secretary’s decision was in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to freedom of expression. The Court agreed with the BBC, framing the case as fitting the exceptions provided for in the Ministry of Justice policy document PSI 37/2010 on prisoners’ access to media, and holding that the Justice Secretary’s refusal was a disproportionate interference with public interests according to Article 10.


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