TV watchdog Ofcom has been bombarded with complaints over the BBC’s coverage of ISIS bride Shamima Begum, as the reporter behind the documentary revealed: “Not even the British Government had the same access to her.”
Reporter Josh Baker told the Media Show: “That’s quite an important public service right now.”
Begum from east London, was 15 when she flew out to join the Islamic terrorists.
She is currently at the centre of a legal row over whether she should be allowed to return to the UK despite being stripped of her citizenship.
The BBC has devoted more than five hours of coverage to the former ISIS bride.
The Shamima Begum Story is a 90-minute documentary available on iPlayer. And there is also a two-and-a-half hour, multi-episode podcast called I’m Not A Monster, as well as numerous features on shows such as the Media Show and Woman’s Hour.
It has led to more than 100 complaints to Ofcom, with viewers fearing the coverage is giving a platform to Begum, now 23.
Asked about the backlash, Mr Baker replied: “I can understand people’s anger. Obviously going towards this I knew there would be a backlash.”
TV insiders estimate the cost of the documentary “was up to £450,000, not least because of the drivers and security involved”. Yet despite the investment, it received just one million viewers, seven percent of the audience – beaten by Bradley & Barney Walsh: Breaking Dad on ITV, and Channel 4’s 24 Hours In A and E.
Begum went to Syria as a potential ISIS bride in 2015. Just 10 days after she arrived she married a member of the death cult, and had three children with him, all of whom died young.
She has fought to return to the UK but in February 2021 the Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeal ruling, which prevented her return.
Andrew Allison, of The Freedom Association, said: “Shamima Begum happily left her home to join a death cult. The BBC ought to be ashamed for using licence fee payers’ money to allow her to tell her disgraceful story and for giving her the oxygen of publicity. Yet another reason why the licence fee should be scrapped.”
The BBC said: “This important piece of journalism is the culmination of years of investigation by Josh Baker. This is not a platform for Shamima Begum to give her unchallenged story. This is a robust, public interest investigation into who she really is and what she really did.”