24 Feb 2019

UK’s ‘Isis bride’ row triggers talk radio

From Mediawatch, 9:09 am on 24 February 2019

A teenage Briton’s bid to return home after sleeping with the enemy in Syria was a huge talking point in the UK. But it also pre-occupied talk radio here, obscuring the issue closer to home.

'Isis bride' Shamima Begum talks to Sky News.

'Isis bride' Shamima Begum talks to Sky News. Photo: screenshot / Sky News

Four years ago SIS director Rebecca Rebecca Kitteridge raised a red flag about women from New Zealand supporting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

She said there were up to a dozen and they were more likely to return to New Zealand than to Australia, even if they had previously lived in Australia.

This made headlines briefly at the time, but not many since then. When Ms Kitteridge fronted up for a select committee at Parliament this week most reporters there were for more about Huawei and state-sponsored cyber intrusions.

But she told MPs a "small but concerning" number of New Zealand citizens were still in the conflict zone and she wouldn't comment on any intending to come home.

The ‘jihadi brides’ update only sneaked at in the end of a few media reports, but one so-called ‘Isis bride’ wanting to go home half a world away was huge in the headlines here this past week.  

Shamima Begum - who left London four years ago at the age of just 15 - was tracked down in Syria by the UK paper The Times last week.

The paper found her apparently unrepentant about going to Syria, but she wanted to have her third child - due any day - back in the UK.

By Thursday last week this was headline news in UK, but the story took off globally last weekend when Sky News aired an interview with Shamima Begum in Syria with her newborn son at her side.   

For more than two days almost every show and every host on Newstalk ZB talked about it, filling the airwaves with politics lecturers, PR consultants, pundits and politicians telling the UK what to do.  

An interview about deradicalisation prompted a stream of hostile messages from listeners to Drive host Larry Williams.

Earlier in the day morning host Kerre McIvor's talkback callers all agreed the teenager was a ticking time-bomb, and maybe even her new baby too.  

Kerre McIvor told listeners she wouldn't want to sit next to Shamima Begum on the Tube in London in case she spontaneously decides to carry on the jihad.

By contrast the Wellington region's Newstalk ZB morning host Heather du Plessis-Allan reckoned Shamima Begum was a teenage victim of brainwashing. She called former PM Helen Clark who shared her view.  

TVNZ London correspondent Emily Cooper was the only reporter to mention the SIS concern in her 1News report about Shamima Begum.

With the so-called caliphate shriveling, countries around the world do now have to think about the issue of radicals and fighters returning from Iraq and Syria.  

A beefed-up counter-terrorism law came into force last week in the UK to prosecute them.

Australia has new laws for that too.

Neil Prakash appeared in IS propaganda videos.

Neil Prakash appeared in IS propaganda videos. Photo: YouTube

Just last month Neil Prakash - an alleged ISIS recruiter currently in jail in Turkey - became the 12th Australian citizen to have citizenship scrapped.

The Australian government angered Fiji by insisting he was also a citizen there without checking.

But here only RNZ Pacific has reported that story in detail.

One estimate this week indicated that about 360 suspected ISIS recruits from the UK have already returned there and more may follow recent military defeats. 

If one of the women the SIS director spoke about this week does try to return to New Zealand in the future, you can be sure you'll hear a lot about it on talk radio here.