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UK operator of Republic Bharat fined £20,000 for ‘Poochta Hai Bharat’ episode

By Abdullah Zahid.

Republic Bharat, the Hindi news channel arm of Republic TV, was fined £20,000 (approximately Rs 19.73 lakh) by the United Kingdom’s communications regulator Office of Communications on Tuesday for serious broadcast breaches.

The Republic Bharat channel broadcasts rolling news and current affairs to the Hindi speaking community in the UK like dozens of Indian and Pakistani news and entertainment channels.

The fine has been imposed after the British media regulator found an episode of a show — Poochta Hai Bharat — hosted by controversial anchor Arnab Goswami containing hate speech against the people of Pakistan. Republic Bharat has also been asked to air an apology on the channel.

In a release detailing on the sanctions, the Office of Communications, or Ofcom, said that in the channel’s Poochta Hai Bharat programme that was aired on September 6, 2019, views expressed by the presenter Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and and his guests (three Indians and three Pakistanis) violated its broadcasting norms. The sanctions have been imposed on Worldview Media Network Limited, which holds the licence for airing Republic Bharat in the UK.

The programme for which Republic Bharat has been penalised was related to India’s Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft mission to the moon and “involved a comparison of India’s space exploration and technological advancements compared to Pakistan, and Pakistan’s alleged terrorist activities against Indian targets,” the release noted.

Ofcom took exception to comments made by Goswami and his guests on the discussion panel, which the regulator said “amounted to hate speech against Pakistani people, and derogatory and abusive treatment of Pakistani people”.

The release pointed out that referring to Pakistani people, the guests and Goswami said: “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”.

“In the context of these criticisms, the presenter [Goswami], addressing Pakistan and/or Pakistani people, said: We make scientists, you make terrorists.”

Ofcom also mentioned comments made by one of the guests identified as “General Sinha”, who referred to people of Pakistan as “beggars” and threatened a military attack on the country.

Ofcom noted that the content of the programme was “potentially offensive and was not sufficiently justified by the context”. It added that the comments made were “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.

It also took note of the use of the term “Paki”, which it said was a racist word and unacceptable to the audience of UK.

In Ofcom’s view, these negative descriptions constituted “uncontextualised abuse and derogatory treatment of Pakistani people on the ground of their nationality in breach of Rule 3.3. 38”.

The Republic TV told Ofcom that it shouldn’t be slapped with a fine and promised that no live discussion on India-Pakistan issues will be aired in future unless reviewed and edited first to comply with UK’s laws but the Ofcom found that Republic TV had acted in recklessness and broken certain rules repeatedly.

Ofcom found that the material aired on Republic TV “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”.

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