London, Aug 26 : A Whitehall counter-terrorism unit is targeting the BBC and other media organisations as part of a new global propaganda push designed to "taint the al-Qaeda brand", according to a secret Home Office paper.
The document also shows that Whitehall counter-terrorism experts intend to exploit new media websites and outlets with a proposal to "channel messages through volunteers in internet forums" as part of their campaign, The Guardian reported.
The strategy is being conducted by the research, information and communication unit, (RICU) which was set up last year by the then Home Secretary, John Reid, to counter al-Qaeda propaganda at home and overseas. Officials from several government departments staff it.
The report titled "Challenging violent extremist ideology through communications", says: "We are pushing this material to UK media channels, eg a BBC radio programme exposing tensions between al Qaeda leadership and supporters. And a restricted working group will communicate niche messages through media and non-media."
The disclosure that a Whitehall counter-terrorism propaganda operation is promoting material to the BBC and other media will raise fresh concerns about official news management in a highly sensitive area.
The government campaign is based upon the premise that al-Qaeda is waning worldwide and can appear vulnerable on issues such as declining popularity; its rejection by credible figures, especially religious ones, and details of atrocities.
The Whitehall propaganda unit is collecting material to target these vulnerabilities under three themes. They are that al-Qaeda is losing support; "they are not heroes and don't have answers; and that they harm you, your country and your livelihood".
The RICU guidance, dated July 21 2008, says that the material is primarily aimed at "overseas communicators" in embassies and consulates around the world, confirming the global scale of the Whitehall counter-terrorist propaganda effort now underway.