Anti-terrorist hotline ad banned
By Richard Edwards
A police counter-terrorism advertisement which encouraged the reporting “suspicious” people who keep their curtains closed and do not talk to their neighbours has been banned for causing offence to the law-abiding public.
The radio promotion for the Anti-Terrorist Hotline drew complaints from the public for potentially criminalising people going about their everyday lives.
It listed “suspicious” behaviour worth reporting to the police as: “The man at the end of the street doesn’t talk to his neighbours much, because he likes to keep himself to himself. He pays with cash because he doesn’t have a bank card, and he keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route.”
It went on: “This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions. We all have a role to play in combating terrorism. If you see anything suspicious call the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline… If you suspect it, report it.”
The campaign by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) drew 18 complaints, including 10 from listeners who said it was offensive for encouraging people to report law-abiding citizens who acted in the ways described.
Others said it could encourage people to harass or victimise their neighbours and made an undue appeal to fear.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today (Wed) banned the advertisement. It said: “We considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive.
“We also considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described. We therefore concluded that the ad could cause serious offence.”
The Metropolitan Police, which leads nationally on terrorism, said the promotion addressed the issue that terrorists lived within communities, “and sometimes what appeared to be an insignificant behaviour could potentially be linked to terrorist activities”.
The behaviour listed in the advertisement was based on trends identified by police and had been included in evidence given at recent terrorism trials, the force said.