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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Muslim Newsreader Fiddled Expenses

This case contains every facet of 'diversity'; employ someone who isn't even very good because of her religion/name/colour, find out she is doing wrong and suspend her, then get hit with a hefty lawsuit for the lot - in this case sexual, racial and age discrimination.

Lisa Aziz was Britain's first female Muslim newsreader on Sky News. She later moved to ITV's West Country Today, where she was paid an annual salary of £200,000.

Despite this, she still felt the need to make expenses claims for such frivolous nonsense as a £5.75 dry-cleaning bill. These expenses amounted to over £200, and when confronted with them she accused her bosses of using the incident as the culmination of a campaign of bullying.

Now it emerges that ITV has 'breached its own procedures by suspending her' and she could claim compensation running into the millions.

From the Mail:

ITV is facing a huge payout today as it emerged that one of its most experienced newsreaders is suing the broadcaster for religious discrimination, ageism and sexism.

West Country Tonight presenter Lisa Aziz has been suspended for allegedly fiddling her expenses.

One of the seven claims was apparently a £5.75 bill for dry cleaning a child's top.

The 47-year-old presenter has not been seen hosting nightly news programme West Country Tonight for the past month.

Sources close to Ms Aziz today told the London Evening Standard that the presenter is claiming that senior managers at ITV West 'ambushed' her as part of a campaign of bullying and harassment in order to force her out the organisation.

They also say that the £200,000-a-year presenter has been 'overwhelmed with stress' and has been prescribed anti-depressants.

Ms Aziz alleges that her Muslim religion was used against her by bosses who told her to 'use her terror contacts' when investigating a story into Bristol terrorism suspect Andrew Ibrahim.

A source said that Ms Aziz 'hit the roof' when the younger employee made the remark.

The row is believed to have triggered the showdown with management with whom she has been at loggerheads for months after a merger between two ITV regions.

It is also thought that ITV may have breached its own procedures by suspending her. Although she has not been officially dismissed she could seek compensation 'rising into the millions'.

ITV West's head of news Liz Hannam and head of human resources Richard Thurston are both named in the official grievance documents issued to ITV.

A friend of Ms Aziz said: 'Lisa is overwhelmed with stress over how she has been treated. She never had her expenses claims questioned before and if they had a problem with any receipts she would have paid it back in a second. Instead they ambushed her with a few claims amounting to less than £200.

'She feels as if she has faced a campaign to be forced out. She has a good relationship with the local Muslim community as that was where she began her career but for a news editor to imply that she had "terror contacts" made her furious.

'It wouldn't happen to a white colleague or a male colleague, so there is an ageism and sexism issue as well as the racism. She has been off air for a month and ITV has replaced her with two blonde, blue-eyed presenters in their thirties. That says it all.'

Ms Aziz's place on the nightly news programme, which is broadcast across an area stretching from Gloucestershire to Cornwall, has been taken by two younger presenters, Claire Manning and Ellie Barker.

ITV sources said that Ms Aziz is well-regarded by senior figures at the channel in London.

Ms Aziz previously worked for Sky News and was the first Asian and first Muslim news presenter on mainstream TV.

ITV declined to comment on the allegations facing Ms Aziz.

An ITV spokesman said: “ITV never comments on ongoing investigations and follows established and recognised employment procedures.

'We vehemently deny any allegations relating to discrimination and will vigorously defend our position in this regard.'

Ms Aziz began her television career in Bristol in 1983 at the BBC and then as a reporter and presenter with HTV West.

In 1989, she became the face of TV-am news, replacing Gordon Honeycombe as regular newscaster.

She had worked briefly as a reporter for TV-am after leaving HTV West and then joined Sky News in 1992 to continue fronting their bulletins for TV-am.

The presenter won an EMMA Best Television News Journalist award in 2004.

She remained with Sky until 2005, when she moved to present ITV West's regional news programme from Bristol.

Earlier this year it was merged with ITV West Country, which covered Devon, Cornwall and south Dorset.

The new combined programme covers news items from both regions but includes a segment where localised broadcasts are dedicated to stories from the pre-merger transmission areas.

More than 80 staff lost their jobs in the merger, which was part of a national strategy to scale down ITV's regional news service.

Among them was Jed Pitman, who used to present some editions of The West Tonight with Ms Aziz, as well as sports programmes.

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