Office of Communications of Ofcom, the UK’s media regulatory body, has imposed a fine of £20,000 on Worldview Media Network, the company operating Republic Bharat in the UK. The penalty has been imposed for breach of the code against hate speech directed at any race, ethnicity, or nationality.
The show in question is Republic Bharat’s ‘Poochta Hai Bharat’ hosted by Arnab Goswami. Ofcom found that an episode of the show aired on 6 September 2019 contained derogatory and abusive content directed at Pakistani people.
In a detailed statement, the regulatory body laid out an extensive process that went behind this statutory sanction.
The statement noted that the episode’s timing was significant considering the rising tensions between both nations at the time with respect to India’s decision to strip Kashmir’s autonomy via scrapping of Article 370.
Ofcom said that they hired translators to fully understand the statements made in the show. Several parts of the episode have been found to contain statements from the host and guests inciting violence and threats against the people of Pakistan, it said.
Among the guests were Major Gaurav Arya, Major General K.K. Sinha and BJP’s Prem Shukla. Pakistan’s Omar Inam and Omar Altaf were also present. There was a third guest from Pakistan but was not named in Ofcom’s statement.
The Licensee was given an opportunity to contest the findings. One of the statements contested was the Hindi word “Hum tumko marenge” used by Arnab Goswami. They argued that the word did not mean “kill” but meant “beat”. But based on the context of the speech where Goswami reiterated calls to war and violence, Ofcom determined that the expression meant “to kill”.
Another word ‘Paki’ used by the guest Major Gaurav Arya, who called it an “abuse” has been argued against as being a casual reference to Pakistanis. Ofcom however, disagreed with the contestation and said that it was a racist term.
Ofcom’s decision to impose a penalty on the Licensee is in accordance with sections 2 and 3 of the Communications Act 2003 that states that the broadcast programming must follow generally accepted standards to ensure the safety of the public from offensive content that includes “hatred, abusive and derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities.”
The episode in question has been found to be in breach of rules 2.3, 3.2, and 3.3 of the code. Ofcom has ruled against Republic thrice before, but this is the first time a fine has been imposed.