RadioTimes.com has become an unlikely battleground for supporters and opponents of the Bahrain government, after the nation’s foreign minister urged Bahrainis to vote in an opinion poll on the site.
So far more than 150,000 visitors have cast in excess of 75,000 votes on a page asking users to vote on which programme should win the Current Affairs prize at this year’s Bafta Television Awards. This has proved to be due, in part, to an intervention from the Khalifa dynasty that rules Bahrain.
On Saturday, Bahrain foreign minister Khalid Al Khalifa tweeted to his nearly 80,000 followers, urging loyalists to vote against the Al Jazeera documentary Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark in the Radio Times poll.
“I call on everyone to stand with Bahrain,” he wrote, providing a link to the poll, “and vote against the harmful Al Jazeera film.”
Shouting in the Dark, a documentary about how the Bahrain regime prevented the Arab Spring of 2011 from taking hold there with the help of Saudi troops, has already won numerous awards for Al Jazeera.
Bahrain’s human rights record has been under scrutiny again in recent weeks, following protests surrounding the Formula 1 Grand Prix, held in the island kingdom on 22 April.
In the Current Affairs category at this year’s Baftas – Britain’s most prestigious television awards – Shouting in the Dark faces competition from two BBC1 Panorama films, Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed and The Truth about Adoption, and a searing Channel 4 investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields would seem to be the main beneficiary of the Bahrain government’s plea: the Panorama programmes have only 1% of the current vote between them, leaving the Bahrain and Sri Lanka films competing for RadioTimes.com users’ approval.
Al Jazeera has reported that activists who oppose the regime have taken to social networks, also linking to the Radio Times poll and calling for a vote for Shouting in the Dark. At the time of writing the Al Jazeera film criticising the Bahrain regime is winning by a distance, with 60% of the overall vote, although that percentage has fallen slightly since Saturday.
The Radio Times readers’ vote does not, however, affect the result of the award itself: it will be decided by a Bafta jury and announced on 27 May at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
The only Bafta that can be voted for by internet users is the YouTube Audience Award. Nominees this year include Celebrity Juice, Sherlock and The Great British Bake Off.