18. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE EVIDENCE,YOU CAN CHANGE IT, RIGHT?

Panorama’s propensity for fitting the evidence to their story, extends also to their remodeled ‘replays’ of interview footage, particularly Dewani’s interview with The Sun newspaper. Of course there are circumstances in which editing of audio material is quite appropriate – such as for brevity, or to enhance clarity. The Panorama 2013 programme does contain instances of such appropriately edited content.

But what about the journalist who edits the audio from an interview tape, putting the start of one sentence with the end of another, and then replays that, claiming it was said in the interview? Jeremy Vine and his Panorama pals have been discovered doing just that. The examples published below prove that Vine and his colleagues have been prepared fit up the facts; quite happy to cut and paste in the video editor until the “evidence” says what they want it to say.

So what was the intent behind these modifications? We cannot know for sure, but we can guess: the likely effect of a change is probably a reasonable guide to the intent behind that change.

Example #1

  • Dispatches, 20min 13 sec: “He’d said at the airport that he knew exactly where the hotel was, and he seemed trustworthy, the car seemed secure, and he would always come and open the door …um… ’til we got out seemed to …um… know his way around well, so at the hotel staff seemed to recognise him at the door…”
  • Panorama, 9min 36sec: “He spoke good English, he seemed trustworthy, the car seemed secure…

Why has Panorama seen fit to falsify the original by cutting and pasting in the phrase “He spoke good English“? One possible answer is, that it casts the speaker of that phrase, Shrien Dewani, in a positive light for Panorama’s target audience – the UK public. A person who uses that phrase is seen as someone who speaks our language, ‘one of us‘, and not ‘one of them‘ – the ‘South Africans‘, whom Jeremy Vine refers to no fewer than 45 times during the program. (See Britain vs South Africa)

Example #2

  • Dispatches, 04min 40sec: “The driver then suggested that we drive through a.. er.. one of the township areas. Anni was k- as keen to.. to see as much as possible of as many different things as she could
  • Panorama, 36min 42sec: “The driver then suggested that we drive through one of the township areas. We had no reason to distrust him at all.”

This is yet another attack on Tongo’s credibility, containing the implicit suggestion that although they (in the past) “had no reason to distrust him”, the situation now is different

Example #3: Simbonile Matokazi

  • Panorama (2012), 43min 44sec: “When I found out he was accused I was a bit surprised because er.. when he told me his story that er.. that night I believed him and I thought what he was saying it was all truth and it was genuine.”
  • Panorama (2013), 40min 22sec: “When I found out that he was accused I was a bit surprised because I don‘t think this guy had killed his wife 

The clip presented by Panorama in 2013 suggests that Simbonile is convinced Shrien is innocent, but his real words, from their earlier program, are much more equivocal.

Example #4

  • Dispatches, 46min 36sec: “I had just got married to… the girl of my dreams… and she actually was the girl of my dreams… We’d spent an inordinate amount of time last year planning our lives together… So any insinuation that.. that.. that I.. that I had anything to do with this is.. is absurd.”
  • Panorama, 02min 12sec: “I’d just got married to the girl of my dreams. Why would I want to kill her?

Example #5

  • Panorama (2012), 48min 38sec: When… ah..(pause)… we found out that, that Anni… had been shot… um... (pause).. [Tongo] started to cry as well… when everyone was coming to console me …um… and he was one of those people”
  • Dispatches, 32min 35sec: “I was just so hysterical when they told me that …ah.. I don’t know, … I just c- ..ah couldn’t think straight… apparently I just started screaming hysterically and dropped the phone”
  • Panorama (2013), 51min 15sec: When… ah… we found out that, that Anni… had been shot… um apparently I just started screaming hysterically and dropped the phone”

Here Panorama are seen to be altering the genuine original which they broadcast in 2012, and joining on part of another statement to create an entirely different meaning. The original statement invites further questions about the relationship between Zola Tongo and Shrien Dewani. Panorama’s action in removing that part of Shrien’s statement has the effect of avoiding those questions. Presumably, that was Panorama’s intent.

Example #6

  • Dispatches, 29min 55sec: “They became increasingly aggressive and pushed me out of the car …um at gun point. I was holding on to her ..ah hanging on to her and they prised us apart and they had a gun, they held a gun to my head and said either you leave or we’ll shoot you… and then they forced me out of the car. They ..um they tried to open the back door ..um but it wouldn’t open presumably because the child lock was still on ..um…. and ..er so they opened the window and he eventually just forced me out of the window ..um because I was resisting ..um and holding onto Anni and they pushed me out of the window.”
  • Panorama, 39min 41sec: “…they prised us apart, they held a gun to my head and said either you leave or we’ll shoot you.”

Example #7

Shrien Dewani has given three different versions of how he exited the taxi. Mngeni’s account, as seen on the police video, matches none of them.

  • Panorama, 39min 31sec: “tss tss tss tss”
  • Panorama, 39min 41sec: “…they prised us apart, they held a gun to my head and said either you leave or we’ll shoot you.”

The stark contrasts are quite laughable between

  1. Shrien Dewani’s account of being forced out the taxi’s window
  2. Xolile Mngeni’s quite incompatible description of him being shooed out the door, and
  3. Jeremy Vine’s assertion “Again, his account mirrors Mngeni’s”

What can we say? Is it a trick mirror, Jeremy?

What do we expect of BBC Panorama?

If a bookkeeper were discovered to have added  a couple of zeroes in his accounting entries, or perhaps changed “£7,000” to read “£9,000”, in order to have the books balance, he would be considered to have committed a crime. What about a journalist who edits the audio from an interview tape, putting the start of one sentence with the end of another, and then replays that, claiming it was said in the interview? Do Mr Vine and colleagues at BBC Panorama believe that journalists should be held to lesser standards of truth and honesty? Do they perhaps believe that a more appropriate workable standard of ethical behaviour has been established by Max Clifford? Are we really surprised, having seen the Leveson shenanigans?

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