Saturday, October 21, 2017

Open letter to the BBC: don't buy the narrative of hate

I am a viewer and admirer of BBC World. I have received these days a WhatsApp message that apparently media firm Mediapro has been circulating. This media company is, according to the message, producing a debate for the BBC that will be conducted by the prestigious journalist Stephen Sackur. In the message, the producers are saying that they are looking for 100 independentists, 100 "unionists" and 100 neutral/undecided individuals. I have no doubt that a rigorous program conducted by Mr. Sackur can be a very interesting and helpful contribution to the events that we are experiencing in Catalonia. However, I believe there are reasons to question the choice of partner and the framing of the debate. Mediapro is a company that has strong links to the secessionist groups. Beyond this, it is a company that has been or is still being investigated by the FBI for the involvement of its subsidiary Imagina in the FIFA corruption scandal (you can check this by googling Imagina, FBI and FIFA or replacing Imagina by Mediapro). The role of this media company in Catalonia is not very different from the role of the British public relations company Bell Pottinger in Southafrica that was recently denounced by the Newsnight programme of the BBC for profiting from the promotion of social division. The full story of the relationship between Mediapro and the secessionist movement in Catalonia is explained in the "serious" pages of the satiric magazine Mongolia (the Spanish "Charlie Hebdo") last summer (unfortunately, not available online). Beyond this, the binary narrative that these producers are using to promote the debate, is very unfortunate. The word "unionist" does not belong to the very rich history of political movements in Catalonia or Spain. Instead, it was introduced in Catalonia by the organized pro-independence movement to associate those who oppose independence (who have very different views among themselves) with a radical unpopular movement. I can assure you that there are no followers of the late reverend Paisley in Catalonia. There has never been a so-called "unionist" movement in Catalonia. People like myself are neither independentists, nor unionists, nor neutral. We are federalists, like at least 40% of the population according to surveys. Why not frame the debate between federalists, non-federalists and neutral? Why not frame the debate in terms of pro-European, anti-European or neutral? Because that does not play into the hands of those that have used the self-government institutions of Catalonia to promote a nationalist agenda leaving aside the rule of law. Please make sure that this message reaches Stephen Sackur.

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