Arnab Goswami-owned Hindi news channel Republic Bharat was fined £20,000 by British media watching Office of Communications, also known as Ofcom. The fine was levied on Republic Bharat for a segment they ran on September 16, 2019. The regulatory body found that the segment, which was focused on Pakistan, was unjustifiably offensive in nature, and deemed it as hate speech.
"During a current affairs discussion programme the presenter and some of his guests made several statements which amounted to hate speech against, and derogatory and abusive treatment of, Pakistani people. The content was also potentially offensive and was not sufficiently justified by the context," Ofcom wrote.Republic Apologises
The watchdog body's detailed report on the matter stated that Republic Bharat has since aired an apology stating, "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."
Following the penalty, Republic also notified Ofcom that it shall stop airing live debates on Indo-Pakistan relations "with immediate effect" and ensure further reviewing of content for UK viewers before being aired.
From Chandrayaan To Pakistan
The particular segment in question was led by controversial news anchor and Republic Media's editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, and was focused on India's Chandrayaan mission which repeatedly stated how Pakistan was inferior to India in terms of technology.
The segment also brought into discussion Pakistan's response to the abrogation of Article 370 (that removed the autonomy held by the former state of Jammu and Kashmir) and the breaking up of the state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The guests on this particular episode were Major General K.K. Sinha, BJP member Prem Shukla, Major Gaurav Arya, and Pakistani citizens Oman Inam and Omar Altaf.
In Violation Of Broadcasters' Code
Ofcom highlighted in its decision to fine the channel that there were attempts made by Goswami and some of his guests to unjustifiably paint every Pakistani as terrorist, which they found as amounting to hate speech.
The regulatory body found that the particular episode in question violated the three following rules of the Broadcasters' Code:
- Rule 3.2: "Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television… programmes… except where it is justified by the context".
- Rule 3.3: "Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television… services… except where it is justified by the context".
- Rule 2.3: "In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context… Such material may include […] offensive language, […] discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of […] religion or belief […]). Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence."
"We first considered whether the statements included in the programme constituted hate speech. Statements were made which implied not just that there are threats to Indian interests and citizens from particular people and groups inside Pakistan, but that all Pakistanis represent a terrorist threat to Indians and others," it wrote.
This was in reference to the following statement made by Arya during the episode:
"Arnab, this is a country of terrorists. Their scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians all are terrorists. Even their sports people. Arnab, even their sports stars are terrorist. This whole nation is terrorist.I do not think anyone has been saved. Every child is a terrorist over there."
"We were of the view that the material 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," Ofcom added.
This is Goswami's second brush with Ofcom, after the regulatory body accused him of running an impartial segment against Pakistan for his former channel Times Now in 2017.
Following the report by Ofcom, The Quint quoted Times Now as saying in response, "We can understand some people's views that the presenter's (Arnab Goswami) role on these programmes seemed to be rather overwhelming and confrontational… He is no longer associated with the channel and has moved out of the organisation."