The broadcasting regulator Ofcom has censured an Indian channel which broadcast a programme in the UK during which guests called Pakistan a terrorist and “satanic country.”
Ofcom found Indian Hindi channel ABP News, which airs on Sky 817 in Britain, in breach of its code on due impartiality after a complaint about the Khabar Din Bhar programme on February 16, 2019.
The programme was about the aftermath of an attack in Pulwama which resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian soldiers in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammed, although Pakistan officials denied any link with the attack.
The programme was hosted by a presenter and included a panel and a live audience. The audience was made up of young Indian people who were described by the presenter as feeling “defiance in the face of those who were responsible for martyring our soldiers.”
The presenter, Romana Izhaar Khan, asked the audience which country did the attack, to which they responded “Pakistan!” She then went onto call Pakistan a “terrorist country.”
A guest, Alok Sharma, said: “I believe that there is no difference of opinion between us that Pakistan is a terrorist country, and there is no doubt about it. Any person who thinks otherwise is just showing us how morally bankrupt they are.”
Another guest, Acharya Pramod Krishnam, said: “These people attack our country every day. Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan and Pakistan is bad. Pakistan is a satanic country. Pakistan is a terrorist country.”
At no point during the show was the Pakistani position explained.
In its defence ABP News said public sentiment could not have been ignored at a time when the country as a whole was trying to come to terms with the attack, and that the programme essentially captured that outrage.
But while Ofcom acknowledged that as a channel broadcasting from an Indian perspective ABP News would wish to reflect the sentiment of the Indian public, it said the channel should have preserved due impartiality by reflecting alternative viewpoints, such as that of the Pakistani government.
“We therefore considered that the various contextual factors cited by ABP News did not mitigate the absence of alternative perspectives about Pakistan’s involvement in the Pulwama attack,” Ofcom said.
“For the reasons outlined above, Ofcom’s Decision is that ABP News failed to preserve due impartiality and breached Rule 5.5 of the Code.”