Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Nigerians Want to Halt a British TV Series: What a Cheek!

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Nigerians Want to Halt a British TV Series: What a Cheek!

Article excerpt

The Nigerian high commissioner requires that Channel 4 cancels Lagos Airport at once. The series gives the country a bad name, he says, at a time when it is eager to attract foreign investment. Instead, he wants a PR job in which Channel 4 tells us that, since it finished filming early this year, the "fledgling democracy" has done its very best to improve conditions at the airport. He has also threatened a lawsuit claiming damages for the harm done to his country. This shows a remarkable ignorance of British jurisprudence but, more than that, a hell of a cheek.

I take a serious interest in such complaints about documentaries that reveal blinding incompetence and corruption in third world countries. You see, I almost lost my life in one instance and was pilloried by the entire cabinet.

I had made a documentary in my home island of Trinidad for Channel 4 around 1989 entitled The Gathering Storm. Word got back to the Trinidadian authorities that I had undermined the country on foreign television. I travelled to face the music.

Where somebody tried to shoot me at point blank range; it was a miracle that I survived. The prime minister went so far as to call a special sitting of the Trinidadian parliament to denounce me as a traitor. For three murderous weeks, one of the national daily newspapers was full of letters written at the ruling party's headquarters. They threatened to take away my citizenship and exile me permanently. And for what? Speculating that the country was heading for a big social upheaval and providing the evidence to support this hypothesis. Within eight months of the documentary, Trinidad experienced the most violent revolt in its history: a group of fundamentalist Muslims attempted to seize political power, shot the prime minister and held the entire parliamentary membership as hostages in the debating chamber. …

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