- Muhammad Yunus was allowed to reject freelance journalist Tom Heinemann when he was interviewed in connection with a conference in Copenhagen. Writes Bo Elkjær. The article first appeared on a Danish journalists’ website on 31st Januray.
Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus was allowed to reject freelance journalist Tom Heinemann when he was interviewed in connection with a conference in Copenhagen.
Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus was allowed to reject freelance journalist Tom Heinemann when he was interviewed in connection with a conference in Copenhagen. “It is a mistake that we not declared it,” says editorial director at Program 1, Judith Skriver. “I was quite stunned,” says Tom Heinemann.
“No”. That short was the response of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus as Danish Radio’s program “P1 Orientering” would send a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker Tom Heinemann to interview him in connection with a Danida-organized conference in Copenhagen on Monday.
Muhammad Yunus was invited to Copenhagen by Danida’s Information Committee and the Confederation of Danish Industries.
Tom Heinemann has previously made a critical documentary about Muhammad Yunus and the micro-loan project, which led to the Nobel Peace Prize. Because of the critical documentary, Muhammad Yunus in two and a half years have refused to talk to Tom Heinemann.
“P1 Orientering” accepted Muhammad Yunus refusal to be interviewed by Heinemann and sent instead of another journalist.
Was to be confronted with blacklisting
Since the interview could not be done, it was instead agreed between Tom Heinemann and “P1 Orientering” that Muhammad Yunus during the interview should be confronted with his blacklisting and directly asked why he would not meet Tom Heinemann.
This question was included in the interview that was edited into “P1 Orientering”. It was also agreed that Tom Heinemann had to be a guest in the broadcast, where the Yunus interview was sent – and given the opportunity to comment on the blacklisting.
It went very wrong.
“I’m in the studio, when I hear the interview with Yunus,” says Tom Heinemann to journalisten.dk.
“I am quite stunned when I hear that the issues we have agreed upon is gone. This is live radio. What we have agreed upon – both Friday and Monday – it’s gone. It’s not even part of the presentation. ”
“So I tell the listeners that I had been hired to do the interview with Yunus, but that he would not meet me. So I ask, is it Yunus or “P1’s” staff who edit this program. ”
Was Muhammad Yunus asked why he would not meet Heinemann?
“Yes it was he. We have this on tape. It’s super annoying that it was not used. He was asked and he was somewhat tight-lipped over this. He replied that it would derail the debate, he would like to talk about at the conference, he did not think it would be about a documentary film. But he has actually gotten the question and he replied. We could have aired it. “
“The anchor in the studio then replied that we should discuss this in another program. Now, I do not have access to all sorts of programs in National Danish Radio.
I think it’s a fundamental discussion. Therefore I said it, now that I had the chance. Regardless of how much power people have in the world – whether it is the emperor of China – it’s not them who should decide who we send to do an interview, “says Tom Heinemann.
“It’s peoples own choice if they stand up or not. But we can’t be obedient, and then just send someone else. ”
A slippery slope
“When he does not want to meet us, we must ask: Should he then be allowed to meet anyone? Should he be allowed to decide who he wants to talk to? It’s a slippery slope. Then you have no critical questions that may have a little edge or bite. Yunus will avoid to meet someone who – sorry I even say this – know something about this issue. ”
Tom Heinemann was contacted by “P1 Orientering” on Friday to see if he could be hired to interview Muhammad Yunus and in general cover the conference, Yunus participated in. Tom Heinemann said yes, but pointed out that Yunus would hardly stand up for the interview.
Friday afternoon “P1” called back to Heinemann and confirmed that Yunus said no. Instead, it was agreed that Tom Heinemann would attend the conference for “P1” on Monday. Later he should be live in the studio and would get the opportunity to talk about why Muhammad Yunus refuses to meet with the Danish documentary film maker.
The interview with Yunus took place early Monday morning.
Would like to cover the controversial
The editor at “P1”, Judith Skriver confirms the process and confirms that they had hired Tom Heinemann to do the interview with Yunus.
Judith Skriver regrets that “P1 Orientering” did not properly said that Tom Heinemann had been blacklisted by the Nobel Prize winner.
“We make the mistake of not saying (on air) what was actually agreed upon at the editorial meeting and that Tom was sent in to interview Yunus for “P1 Orientering”, but that Tom got a no from Yunus.
“We wanted to cover the controversial part of Yunus. The listeners will still sit and think this. We cannot isolate it to only cover the conference. That is why we discuss how we do it best. ”
Judith Writes says, however, that “P1 Orientering” initially planned to send another journalist on assignment to cover the conference and interview Yunus. This is the journalist who arrange it with the organizers of the conference. Because of workload the journalist should not make the interview. After this, the decision to hire Tom Heinemann was taken.
“We wanted to hire Tom Heinemann as a journalist for “P1 Orientering”. He knows the story from front and back. But Yunus says no, “says editorial director Judith Skriver.
Error occurs in the move
“We turn four times, and say: Well, then we go back to Plan A. We put the original reporter to do the interview, as she was subscribed to do so on Thursdays and back her up in various ways. And we invite Tom to the studio because we believe that we will cover that side of Yunus as well and because he is the person who knows most about it. Tom will actually get minutes to give his take on who Yunus is as a person and what to put in his greatness. ”
“All together I think this is a fine and decent package. We make one mistake and Tom make one. We should have declared what we do and what we are doing. This is an error that happens on the fly. It was meant to be said during the interview, but the lid goes off by Tom, as he did not get it the first question, he should probably have had. In hindsight and the unbearably bright lights, he should have had the question. Off course he should have had that question. He would also have had it later, but his lit went off during the first question. ”
“The fault we make is that we do not declare what kind of situation we are in. We have Tom inside the studio and the whole side of the coin is covered quite well. Tom makes the mistake that his lid goes off. And he sends a stinker because the listeners will have no idea what this is about. He takes an internal editorial discussion in an open microphone. ”
Was Muhammad Yunus asked why he would not meet Heinemann?
“Yes it was he. We have this on tape. It’s super annoying that it was not used. He was asked and he was somewhat tight-lipped over this. He replied that it would derail the debate, he would like to talk about at the conference, he did not think it would be about a documentary film. But he has actually gotten the question and he replied. We could have aired it. ”
The matter was discussed internally at “P1” both on Friday, Monday and Tuesday, Judith Skriver confirms.
“I made it clear that we have made a mistake, that we do not declare clearly why Tom is sitting in the studio.”
But should you not have said to Yunus: “It is we who decide who interviews you”?
“Yes, but we had reported another journalist to come. Of course it’s not him who decides. But it was not like he said; I will speak with one, not with the other. ”
But in principle: Shall we accept this kind of external editing?
“But he did not edit the program. We had a critical interview with Yunus. We gave eight minutes of airtime to Tom. ”
Yunus said he would not meet Heinemann?
“Yes, yes, yes. But he has not editing our program. We have done it ourselves. We maintain the critical angles. We cover them in a different way. Yunus shall not decide that. He must not deter us from a critical angle. We maintain the critical angle. We just do it that way we can. ”
And so you do not get that presented when Tom Heinemann is in the studio?
“It might have been nicer to say it at the beginning.”
But isn’t there indeed a fundamental discussion in how the sources should be allowed to decide which journalists they will be interviewed by?
“I find they normally should not. And he should not. In this case, we had a journalist who had the appointment. We chose Tom because we wanted to have a qualified coverage, but our reporter did not have time to read up on it. ”
But I have to say this: Yunus says no thanks to Heinemann and then you can react in different ways to it.
“We say it will not stop ourselves from covering the conference as we had originally planned. It doesn’t stop us from making a critical angle of Yunus. There we have Tom in the studio. ”
The question of whether sources should be allowed to select journalists, did you discuss this?
“Yes, yes it is obvious. We are very concerned about our profession, how we act, how we cover it, so of course we have discussed it. ”
Have you reached any conclusions?
“No, nothing more than I say: The sources does not edit “Orientering” We do this.
We will not let sourcesedit our program. It’s not going to happen, “says Judith Skriver.
“He (Tom Heinemann) is an accomplished journalist which we happily work together with. That we make a mistake and that he overreacts does not change the fact that we think he is a talented journalist. He knows some things that are valuable. “