I was blackmailed by Bashir, says child prodigy’s father

By Louisa Pritchard February 23 2003

The Mail on Sunday Controversial TV journalists Martin Bashir has been hauled before the Broadcasting Standards Commission after being accused of blackmail by one of his interviewees.

Farooq Yusof, father of runaway child prodigy Sufiah told the commission at a private hearing in London on Wednesday that Bashir had claimed to have vital information about his missing daughter — but would reveal it only if Mr. Yusof would appear in a Bashir documentary.

In the film, shown on ITV’s Tonight With Trevor McDonald in 2001, Bashir interviewed Sufiah — then aged 16 — who had run away from Oxford University to escape her ‘domineering’ father.

The maths genius, who won an Oxford place at the age of 12, was later placed with foster parents in Dorset. Mr. Yusof, who initially thought his daughter had been abducted by a religious cult, told the TV watchdog commissioners he had contacted Graham Baldwin from the charity Catalyst which helps victims of cults.

Mr. Baldwin, who gave evidence to the BSC, told The Mail on Sunday: “Bashir blackmailed us. He clearly said that he had very important information that he had got from his researchers and he wouldn’t give it to Mr. Yusof unless he did the programme. But there was no information. The way he behaved was outrageous.”

Bashir vigorously denies the charge. Meanwhile he faces humiliating scenes tomorrow night when British TV shows American pop idol Michael Jackson’s own footage of his extraordinary interview with Bashir, Living with Michael Jackson. After the documentary was shown, Jackson accused Bashir of betrayal and the film he took shows the journalist lavishing praise on him. Jackson has complained to the BSC and the Independent Television Commission. (read on)

Mr. Yusof also taped his meetings with Bashir. If his complaint against the journalist and Granada is upheld by the BSC next week, the television company will be forced to air a public apology to Mr. Yusof and pay for an apology to be printed in a national newspaper. If he is successful in his complaints, Mr. Yusof will also have the option of seeking compensation in civil court.

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