A fine of £20,000 has been imposed on India’s Republic Television channel by Ofcom, a British media regulator on account of airing hate speech against Pakistan. Like several Pakistani and Indian news and entertainment channels, the Republic Bharat channel airs news to the Indian and Hindi speaking community residing in the UK.
An episode of a show hosted by Arnab Goswami called “Poochta hai Bharat” was found inciting hate speech against Pakistanis. The show was not compliant with Ofcom’s broadcasting rules, reported The Wire.
“We concluded that this was a serious breach of our rules which warranted the imposition of statutory sanctions. These include a financial penalty of £20,000, payable to HM Paymaster General; a direction not to repeat the program; and a direction to broadcast a statement of our findings on a date – and in a form – to be determined by Ofcom,” read Ofcom’s statement.
The episode, Ofcom states, involved “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.”
Arnab Goswami had invited three Indian and three Pakistani guests in that particular episode to discuss India’s mission to send a spacecraft to the moon. The Kashmir issue as well as Pakistan’s “alleged involvement in terrorist activities against Indian targets” was also brought up during the debate. India’s technological advancement and space exploration as compared to Pakistan’s was also a point of discussion during the show.
The host and his Indian guests repeatedly portrayed Pakistani children, sports celebrities, and Pakistanis in general, as terrorists. “We make scientists, you make terrorists,” said Arnab Goswami about the people of Pakistan.
“We 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,” stated Ofcom.
“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,” it added.
According to Ofcom, the tone of the debate was provocative. “We also noted that Pakistani contributors were repeatedly interrupted and afforded little time to make points which may potentially have provided challenge or context.”
The comments made during the show “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.”
The Republic TV has vowed to not broadcast any live discussions on Pakistan-India issues in the future, anything they air will be edited and reviewed according to UK’s laws. However, Ofcom believes that this is not the first time Republic TV has disregarded the media regulator’s rules. Republic TV’s content “posed a risk of harm to the Pakistani community in the UK, and to good relations particularly between members of the UK’s Indian and Pakistani communities,” according to Ofcom.