February 28, 2005

Torture Reality Show: Are you tough enough?

This mornings online edition of Britain's newspaper The Independent bears the headline: "Channel 4 is Condemned over Torture TV Show." http://news.independent.co.uk/media/story.jsp?story=615215

Reporter Severin Carrell writes:

"The programme, Guantanamo Guidebook, was filmed in an east London warehouse and shows the men being assaulted, stripped naked, verbally abused, sexually humiliated and exposed to sensory deprivation by a team of former US military interrogators."

The men the article speaks of were selected from a pool of 150 of the fittest, toughest chaps they could find.

Carrell continues:

"Several of the men - who include a martial arts champion, "Britain's fittest fireman" and a triathlete - became ill during the 48 hours of ill-treatment - called "torture-lite" by the US authorities. One man fell ill with hypothermia, another wet himself, and others suffered cramps, hallucinations and vomiting."

Though the show claims to be raising public awareness by "investigating the Pentagon's illegal use of torture in the 'war on terror'," the show's critics in the humanitarian and medical communities are accusing the show of "glamorising the abuses suffered by torture victims."

"Dr Nimisha Patel, chief psychologist for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which treats torture survivors, claimed the programme risked being seen by some viewers as "sadistic voyeurism". He said: "Torture is torture, and as such is always inhumane and unjustifiable. The packaging of it as entertainment by Channel 4 is not only grossly distasteful but potentially offensive to many, including survivors of torture and their families."

Commercials for the show asked the question: "Are you 'hard' enough?" The implication being, "could you hold up under these circumstances?" and "Are you tough enough to watch it?"

Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs . . . said Channel 4 was "determined to educate viewers on the use of illegal torture by the US and British complicity in that torture."


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