BBC statement on Afghan blogger threats

The Committee to Protect Bloggers recently received the following statement from the BBC in response to complaints by Afghan Blogger Sohrab Kabuli that somebody has been using a BBC computer to threaten him. The statement was sent by Mike Gardner, Head of Media Relations at BBC World Service:

The BBC has met with Sohrab Kabuli – the pseudonym for the Afghan blogger – who alleges that offensive e-mails were sent from a BBC staff member in the Kabul office.

At the meeting:

* The BBC reassured Mr Kabuli that he is not under threat from any part of the BBC.

* The BBC confirmed to Mr Kabuli that the BBC found no evidence of threatening behaviour toward Mr Kabuli by any BBC staff member.

* We also stated that the BBC is clear such a communication or behaviour would contravene BBC guidelines and be unacceptable if they came from any BBC staff member.

* We assured him that we will not reveal his true identity.

The BBC also said that it treated this matter extremely seriously and conducted an investigation over a number of weeks both in London and in Kabul to ascertain whether the e-mails came from the BBC.

The BBC has concluded its investigation but has been unable to reach a definitive answer for reasons outlined below.

However we believe that evidence has been brought forward now to question the contents of the complaint and the manner in which Mr Kabuli's website was allegedly accessed from a BBC computer.

The BBC was able to establish the following facts during the investigation:

* The IP address mentioned by Sohrab Kabuli in his blog belongs to a computer located in the BBC’s Kabul office.

* The computer is not assigned to a particular individual and can be used by anybody in the office.

* The BBC is unable to confirm whether the alleged threatening message came from the machine, had a message altered or was altered on the blog to appear to have come from the PC.

* Mr Kabuli has furnished us with evidence that the IP address has been in contact with his computer.

* This contact is undisputed as the BBC had conducted a written interview with Mr Kabuli early in July, prior to the allegation. The BBC was unable to use the article. At this point Mr Kabuli threatened to lodge a complaint against the producer.

* It was at this time that allegations claiming death threats surfaced for the first time.

* The investigation has brought forward evidence that Mr Kabuli has been a frequent visitor to the BBC’s Kabul offices. He is well-known to members of staff, some of whom have a personal relationship with him. Therefore his visits to the building, including the room where the computer in question is situated, have usually been unsupervised.

* The BBC is aware that Mr Kabuli is an expert in computing and his profession has involved managing computer networks.

Despite our best efforts we have found no hard or conclusive evidence that the threat came from a member of the BBC staff. If Mr Kabuli has further evidence it will be gratefully received by the BBC.

Mr Kabuli has called for the dismissal of a particular BBC staff member. The BBC is puzzled how the dismissal of a staff member would diminish, should it exist, any perceived threat to his life. The BBC has information that the staff member worked with Mr Kabuli at a previous place of employment. This, added to the fact that Mr Kabuli is now making wild and unsubstantiated allegations against the BBC staff member, leads the BBC to be concerned at his motivations.

The BBC is now drawing a line on correspondence on this matter, unless further conclusive evidence is forthcoming.

The BBC pledges to investigate future serious complaints immediately, if the complaint is sent promptly.

In the meantime we are taking steps to tighten security on buildings, control access to work areas and ensure that non-BBC staff do not have unsupervised access to its computers.

Thanks to CPB president Curt Hopkins for his persistence on this story.


  • Monir

    How is Sohrab Kaboli who is supposed to somehow have access to the BBC newsroom manage to log in, crack the code, and maintain an account on a BBC computer?

    I suppose since he is a ‘computer expert’ and the BBC has seen too many movies where teenagers hack into computer networks by guessing the correct password on the first try, then viola, it must be that Mr. Kaboli has cracked the network and is sending himself threatening email from the BBC newsroom.

    Tax dollars at work at a dumbed down BBC.

  • Jeremy

    So, the BBC theory is that Mr. Kabuli came into the office and posted the messages his own blog in order to implicate a BBC employee working in that office in a scandal as revenge for some unspecificed something that occurred when Mr. Kabuli and an unnamed BBC-Kabul office employee previously worked together.

    A correct and true analysis of this situation, or most any other type of situation, would 99.9% of the time be more parsimonious. There are far too many caveats in this explanation of events for it to be plausible. Couple this convuluted and therefore suspect analysis by the BBC with the fact that liberal media organizations, of which the BBC is one (along with Reuters, France2, The Guardian, etc…), have an affinity for murdering jihadis and I think we have plenty of reason to keep at the BBC for answers.

  • theo

    Move over Baathist Broadcasting Corp! Bolshevik Broadcasting Corp is also sooooo out… hello Blogger-threatening Broadcasting Corp :)

  • I’m not seeing a thorough examination of the hard drive in question. Even with the history erased, it can be restored and examined if done fairly soon (deteriorates over time as disk space is re-used). They should pull the hard drive and turn it over to someone with forensic experience, if they want to represent their actions as an investigation.

    I’m assuming the BBC’s network or mail servers are not involved, as this PC seems to have a permanent IP address. If I’m wrong about this, and there are server records, they should be intact and dispositive.

  • A

    as an afghan i suggest If BBC really want to solve this problem first of all they should understand the war in Afghanistan and teach their staff, the principle of journalism not fascism ,( the head of BBC in the region an example of a fascist person in the high rank position ) their employee should forget they are belong to one tribe they should learn they work for BBC not for Pashton Broadcasting service .

    I do not understand why BBC become voice of one group ( Pashton) in this particular country? Is the BBC is British broadcasting cooperation or Pashton broadcasting cooperation ? which kind monitoring available for this multi ethnic and so sensitive place as this country war are mostly based on ethnic tension in past and recently?

    I am sure Sohrab kabuli become victim of fascism of some employee of BBC which is using BBC equipment for their own agenda and now they issuing death treat to a Bolger !!!

    We should not be surprised if we heard declaration of war of Pashton Taliban and osma bin ladin against others from BBC world service, sound this service totally owned by Taliban now .

  • george bedula

    global voices indeed! all that chit chat an nobody’s
    seein the man in the big hat. osama is coolin his
    heels at brit media central, right there in kabul,
    where he’s been all along, checkin the feeds, monitoring his poppy shipments to china, keepin
    in touch with friends and family, thinkin about a
    lil vacation to africa, maybe malaysia, and nobody
    notices til an afghan brother loyal to the U.S. agenda
    points him out. BBC goes into major denial as directed
    by tony blair, acting under orders from george w.

    conspiracy, what conspiracy? oil don’t mean nothin.
    water’s where the money is, and there’s a whole lot
    of it way down deep below the sands. earth is asking
    for it, screaming to get raped again. who’s on first??

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