23 December 2020

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For Hate Speech UK Regulator imposes fine of £20,000 on Republic Bharat

UK Regulator Ofcom has imposed a £20,000 fine on Worldview Media Network Limited in relation to its service, Republic Bharat, for failing to comply with broadcasting rules.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The United Kingdom's communications regulator Office of Communications (OfCom) on 22 December 2020 gave an order which found that a program of Arnab Goswami's 'Republic Bharat' breached broadcasting conditions by promoting "hatred and intolerance" against a group of individuals.
The OfCom imposed a fine of 20,000 pounds on Worldwide Media Network Ltd, which holds the license to broadcast 'Republic Bharat' in the United Kingdom.

The order held that the discussion "Poochta Hai Bharat" telecast by the channel on September 6, 2019 violated the conditions in the OfCom Broadcasting Code in respect of "offensive language", "hate speech" and " abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities" with its comments against people of Pakistan.

The OfCom order said following -
a-To impose a financial penalty payable to HM Paymaster General) of £20,000;
b-To direct the Licensee not to repeat the programme; and
c-To direct the Licensee to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings on a date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom.

Republic Bharat is a satellite television channel broadcasting rolling news and current affairs to
the Hindi speaking community in the UK, predominantly in the Hindi language. The relevant licence for this station is held by Worldview Media Network Limited.

On 6 September 2019 at 14:26 Republic Bharat broadcast Poochta Hai Bharat, a daily current affairs discussion programme in Hindi presented by the journalist Arnab Goswami. The debate featured in this episode focused on India’s attempt to send the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft to the Moon on 22 July 2019. 

The debate between Mr. Goswami and guest contributors focused on Indo-Pakistani relations. This included discussion of India’s record of space exploration and other technological advancements in comparison to Pakistan’s, the on-going dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, and Pakistan’s alleged involvement in terrorist activities against Indian targets.

The programme went on to feature a 35-minute debate hosted by Arnab Goswami. The discussion included one Indian guest in the studio with the host and contributions from three Indian guests and three Pakistani guests who participated in the discussion from other locations via a live link to the studio. The host and the Indian guests dominated the discussion, with the Pakistani guests attempting to respond but largely being shouted down by the presenter and Indian guests.

In Ofcom’s Decision published on 24 February 2020 in Issue 397 of the Ofcom Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin3 (the “Breach Decision”), Ofcom’s Executive found that this programme contained uncontextualized hate speech and that this content was potentially highly offensive, breaching Rules 2.3, 3.2 and 3.3 of the Code

Ofcom provided the Licensee with the opportunity to make written representations in response to Ofcom’s Preliminary View, which the Licensee provided. The Licensee declined the opportunity to make oral representations at a hearing.

In summary, Ofcom’s Breach Decision found that an episode of the programme Poochta Hai Bharat contained comments made by the host and some of his guests that amounted to hate speech against Pakistani people, and derogatory and abusive treatment of Pakistani people. The content was also potentially offensive and was not sufficiently justified by the context

This broadcast of Poochta Hai Bharat featured a debate between the host, Mr. Goswami, and his guests (three Indian and three Pakistani) relating to India’s attempt to send the spacecraft Chandrayaan 2 on its mission to the moon. The debate involved a comparison of India’s space exploration and technological advancements compared to Pakistan, and Pakistan’s alleged terrorist activities against Indian targets.

In the programme, the presenter and some of his guests conveyed the view that all Pakistani people are terrorists, including that: “their scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians all are terrorists. Even their sports people”; “every child is a terrorist over there. Every child is a terrorist. You are dealing with a terrorist entity”. One guest also described Pakistani scientists as “thieves”, while another described Pakistani people as “beggars”. In the context of these criticisms, the presenter, addressing Pakistan and/or Pakistani people, said: “We make scientists, you make terrorists

A third guest, General Sinha said, “Oh you useless people. Beggars. Oh beggars, oh beggars. We will douse you with 1.25kg, .75kg-, with two inches. PoK8, PoK, we are coming to the PoK. We are coming to the Gilgit, Baltistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa…We are going to come, be ready. People in your country are shivering with fear that the Indian army may come. We will barge inside your home in Baluchistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Karachi, in your area, in Multan, in Rawalpindi and kill you. From Lahore, from Karachi to Gilgit-Balistan when we will have control”

The Licensee suggested that these statements were “figures of speech not intended to be taken literally, which Asian viewers would have understood clearly”. We considered however that these statements, made by a retired Major General from the Indian Army, which clearly threatened that the Indian military would attack Pakistani civilians in their homes, were an expression of hatred and desire to kill by a figure of authority. In our view the broadcast of these statements also promoted hatred and intolerance towards Pakistani people.

We considered that the overall tone of the discussion was provocative, comparing Pakistanis to donkeys and monkeys. We also noted that Pakistani contributors were repeatedly interrupted and afforded little time to make points which may potentially have provided challenge or context.
In the programme, the presenter and some of his guests conveyed the view that all Pakistani people are terrorists, including that: “their scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians all are terrorists. Even their sports people”; “every child is a terrorist over there. Every child is a terrorist. You are dealing with a terrorist entity”. One guest also described Pakistani scientists as “thieves”, while another described Pakistani people as “beggars”. In the context of these criticisms, the presenter, addressing Pakistan and/or Pakistani people, said: “We make scientists, you make terrorists”. 
Ofcom considered these statements to be expressions of hatred based on intolerance of Pakistani people based on their nationality alone, and that the broadcast of these statements spread, incited, promoted and justified such intolerance towards Pakistani people among viewers

In Ofcom’s view, the statements made in the programme, examples of which are mentioned above, were expressions of hatred based on intolerance of Pakistani people on the basis of their nationality alone, and promoted hatred and intolerance towards Pakistani people. 

We considered it included repeated instances of hate speech and abusive or derogatory treatment. It was therefore our Decision that this content met Ofcom’s definition of “hate speech”10 and that Rule 3.2 was breached
The programme also referred to Pakistani people as “terrorists” (even children), “beggars”, “thieves”, “backward”, likened them to donkeys and referred to them as “Paki”, a racist term that is highly offensive and unacceptable to a UK audience In Ofcom’s view, these negative scriptions constituted uncontextualized abuse and derogatory treatment of Pakistani people on the ground of their nationality in breach of Rule 3.3.

Ofcom stated in the Breach Decision that the contraventions of Rules 2.3, 3.2 and 3.3 of the Code were serious and were therefore being considered for statutory sanction 

Ofcom took into account that at the time of the broadcast, the Licensee was already aware, having been notified by Ofcom by telephone call and by email on 21 August 2019, that Ofcom was receiving a number of complaints about the service including in relation to “highly pejorative references to members of the Pakistani community (e.g., continually referring to them as “filthy”)”. Ofcom asked the Licensee’s compliance contact to remind the business of its obligations under the Broadcasting Code. It was therefore our view that appropriate steps were not taken by the Licensee to prevent this contravention

During the investigation of the breaches arising from this episode of Poochta Hai Bharat Republic Bharat wrote to Ofcom highlighting points relevant to whether the breach warranted the imposition of a statutory sanction and, if so, the nature of such sanction. 
In particular, Republic Bharat said that it had:
• stopped the broadcast of live debates and discussions around India-Pakistan relations “with immediate effect” to allow all content to be reviewed before broadcast;
• developed curation processes for content shown to UK viewers to ensure compliance of editorial content; and
• strengthened briefings for guests appearing on the channel “to ensure they refrain from using derogatory language”.

The Licensee was offered the opportunity to attend an oral hearing to make oral representations in accordance with paragraph 1.25 of Ofcom’s Sanctions Procedures. The Licensee declined to attend and indicated that it was satisfied that its written submissions

The Licensee confirmed in its representations on the Preliminary View that the material has not been repeated following its broadcast on 6 September 2019 (either in the same or edited format)

The Licensee also informed Ofcom that it broadcast an apology to “redress the breaches” and “convey our regret to all our viewers”. It said that the apology was broadcast a total of 279 times between 26 February 2020 and 9 April 2020, at all hours of the day. The apology, broadcast in Hindi and English, said:

“APOLOGY -
The communications regulator, the Office of Communications, post-viewing the September 6, 2019 episode of Poochta Hai Bharat, found out some offensive words were used in that program which may have disturbed the viewers. Republic Media Network apologizes if those words hurt any religion or particular person.

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