NEW DELHI, Dec 23: Republic TV owner Arnab Goswami’s Hindi news channel in Britain, Republic Bharat, has been fined £20,000 by the UK’s broadcasting regulator for promoting and justifying hatred towards Pakistani people.
On Tuesday Ofcom imposed the Rs 20 lakh fine on Worldview Media Network Limited which holds the license for Republic Bharat, which targets the Hindi speaking community in the UK, for various breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
Ofcom has also imposed a direction on the channel to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings and not to repeat the programme.
The fine was in relation to an episode of daily current affairs programme Poochta Hai Bharat broadcast on 6 September 2019 presented by Goswami, which Ofcom said amounted to “a sustained and repeated attack on Pakistani people”.
The station had at that time only been broadcasting since August 2019 in Britain. Ofcom said it had identified the programme during “routine monitoring” and commissioned a translation.
The broadcast featured a debate between Goswami and three Indian and three Pakistani guests relating to India’s attempt to send the spacecraft Chandrayaan 2 on its mission to the moon on 22 July 2019.
The debate involved a comparison of India’s space exploration and technological advancements compared to Pakistan, and Pakistan’s “alleged terrorist activities against India”, Ofcom said in its published decision.
The debate was set against the backdrop of increased tensions between India and Pakistan following India’s revocation of Article 370.
In the programme, Goswami and some of the guests conveyed the view that all Pakistani people are terrorists, the report said. Gaurav Arya, the channel’s consulting editor, said: “their scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians all are terrorists. Even their sports people. This whole nation is terrorist. I do not think anyone has been saved. You are dealing with a terrorist entity.”
One guest Prem Shukla described Pakistani scientists as “thieves” and Goswami, addressing Pakistani people, said: “We make scientists, you make terrorists”.
Worldview denied promoting or justifying hatred and argued the programme was based on “a legitimate story covering Pakistan’s involvement in terror activities backed by recent events and statements from leading Pakistani public figures at a time when India was working to become a space power”.
It said that purpose of the debate was “to showcase how India has moved forward, while Pakistan in the same period has failed and the content was based on evidence that Pakistan was trying to infiltrate terrorists, threaten Indian sovereignty and destabilise India”.
The programme also likened Pakistanis to donkeys and monkeys and referred to them as “Paki”, which Ofcom said is “a racist term that is highly offensive and unacceptable to a UK audience”.
The licensee argued that the use of the term “Paki” was not intended to be offensive, nor would be interpreted as such “particularly when used in the sub-continent” and that it had already broadcast an apology 280 times “to redress the breaches”.
The licensee said the “company is running at a loss and has experienced a ‘substantial drop’ in revenue as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic”.
But Ofcom said the programme “contained statements which amounted to hate speech against, and was abusive and derogatory about, Pakistani people on the basis of their nationality.”
The regulator said in the light of increased tensions between the two nations at the time: “We considered that the hate speech against the Pakistani people broadcast in this programme…had the potential to cause further damage to the already strained relationship between people of Indian and Pakistani origin…. posed a risk of harm to the Pakistani community in the UK.”
Ofcom said it had put the licensee on notice just over two weeks prior to the broadcast that it was receiving complaints about pejorative references to Pakistani people on the service and has since recorded three further breaches of the code against the channel – one relating to broadcasting violence, one relating to derogatory criticisms of the Pakistani community and one relating to giving undue prominence to a commercial brand. (TNN)