London : An anti-terrorism advertisement of British police encouraging people to report about “suspicious” neighbours who do not talk much or keep their curtains closed has been banned for causing offence to the law-abiding citizens.
The radio promotion 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 Telegraph reported.
The advertisement listed “suspicious” behaviour 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.”
“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 ad said.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Wednesday banned the advertisement, saying: “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 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 police said.
However, the purpose of the campaign was not to raise fear or paranoia but to raise awareness of the hotline in the context of the current “severe” threat level from international terrorism, a police spokesman said.
Talksport, which broadcast the advertisement, said that the script avoided stereotyping and made no appeals to prejudice, instead focusing on activities which “together” could “add up” to indicating illegal activity.
The ASA found that it was not sensationalist, did not encourage or condone harassment or victimisation and did not make an undue appeal to fear. It ruled that it must not be used again in its current form.