Ofcom fines Indian channel £20K over anti-Pakistani hate speech

Arnab Goswami

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has fined the owners of Indian channel Republic Bharat £20,000 for anti-Pakistani hate speech.

The channel, hosted by prominent pro BJP presenter Arnab Goswami, broadcast a programme in September 2019 during which Pakistanis were called terrorists, beggars and thieves.

Republic Bharat is a Hindi rolling news and current affairs channel which is available in the UK on the Sky platform.

On September 6 2019 the channel broadcast Poochta Hai Bharat, a daily current affairs discussion programme in Hindi presented by Goswami.

The debate focused on India’s attempt to send the Chandrayaan 22 spacecraft to the moon and on Indo-Pakistani relations. This included discussion of India’s record of space exploration and other technological advancements in comparison to Pakistan’s, the on-going dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, and Pakistan’s alleged involvement in terrorist activities against Indian targets.

In the programme, the presenter and some of his guests conveyed the view that all Pakistani people were terrorists, including that: “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.”

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One guest also described Pakistani scientists as “thieves,” while another described Pakistani people as “beggars.” In the context of these criticisms, the presenter, addressing Pakistan and/or Pakistani people, said: “We make scientists, you make terrorists.”

A third guest, General Sinha, said, “Oh you useless people. Beggars. Oh beggars, oh beggars. We will douse you with 1.25kg, .75kg-, with two inches. PoK (Pakistani Occupied Kashmir), PoK, we are coming to the PoK. We are coming to the Gilgit, Baltistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa… We are going to come, be ready. People in your country are shivering with fear that the Indian army may come. We will barge inside your home in Baluchistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Karachi, in your area, in Multan, in Rawalpindi and kill you. From Lahore, from Karachi to Gilgit-Balistan when we will have control.”

In mitigation the channel suggested that these statements were “figures of speech not intended to be taken literally, which Asian viewers would have understood clearly.”

It added that these statements were justified by reference to the political context of heightened tension between India and Pakistan at the time of broadcast, and that the programme as a whole was “calling for peace and unity and uplift of the entire region regardless of nationality.”

However, Republic Bharat said that it was “deeply concerned” that the programme may have been viewed as containing expressions of hatred based on intolerance of Pakistani people. And it emphasised that it had broadcast a public apology 280 times “to substantiate how apologetic we are.”

In its decision Ofcom concluded: “We considered 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…

“In Ofcom’s view, the statements made in the programme… 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…

“Whilst Ofcom agreed that it was legitimate to discuss Indo-Pakistani relations, we did not accept the Licensee’s characterisation of the programme as a whole. We considered it included repeated instances of hate speech and abusive or derogatory treatment.”

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