Almost 520,000 votes have now been cast in a RadioTimes.com poll that has become an unlikely arena for exchanges between pro-democracy campaigners and Bahrain government loyalists.
The poll asks users to express support for one of the four contenders in the Bafta TV Awards’ current affairs category: the Al Jazeera film Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark, Channel 4’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields and two BBC1 Panorama programmes.
But it has rapidly become about far more than a television award. On Saturday, Bahrain foreign minister Khalid Al Khalifa took the surprising step of tweeting a link to the page and calling on his nearly 80,000 followers to vote against the Al Jazeera documentary, which profiles the suppression of an uprising in Bahrain during the Arab Spring of 2011.
“I call on everyone to stand with Bahrain and vote against the harmful Al Jazeera film,” tweeted Al Khalifa.
Thousands of votes were subsequently cast for Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields – about the actions of members of the Sri Lanka government during the country’s civil war – as an alternative to Shouting in the Dark, before opponents of the Bahrain regime responded by voting for the Al Jazeera film.
Social media was again an important tool, with the Twitter hashtag #killingfields used in tweets encouraging people to vote, and adopted by the film’s presenter Jon Snow and director Callum Macrae.
Macrae told RadioTimes.com: “It’s extraordinary how this Radio Times poll has turned into nothing less than an international pro-democracy campaign.
“The votes for both of these films are votes for truth, justice and democracy,” he added. “Taken together they should be a warning to repressive regimes, whether in Sri Lanka or Bahrain, that people are demanding change.”
Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark and Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields are currently neck and neck in the voting, each having garnered over 250,000 votes and together accounting for more than 99 per cent of those cast, while the Panorama documentaries The Truth About Adoption and Undercover Care – The Abuse Exposed each have around 1,000 votes.