U.K. government criticizes decision

The U.K. government has slammed pubcaster Channel 4 for airing a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Christmas Day.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the move reflected poor judgment.

“President Ahmadinejad has during his time in office made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements,” she said. “The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offense and amusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad.”

The BBC and ITV traditionally air a speech by the British monarch on Dec. 25, but since 1993, Channel 4 has opted to broadcast an “Alternative Christmas Message” instead, often of a challenging nature.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad made a thinly veiled attack on the U.S. and its allies: “If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers,” he said.

Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the speech attracted a strong rebuke from Jewish groups and gay-rights campaigners, while others argued it was a legitimate exercise in freedom of speech.

Louise Ellman, a Labour Party Member of Parliament and chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “I condemn Channel 4’s decision to give an unchallenged platform to a dangerous fanatic who denies the Holocaust, while preparing for another, and claims homosexuality does not exist while his regime hangs gay young men from cranes in the street.”

Channel 4 stood by its decision. Head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne said: “As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential.

“As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view.”

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