British TV regulatory authority Ofcom has imposed a £20,000 fine on Republic Bharat, Republic TV’s Hindi channel, for hate speech against Pakistani people in a programme broadcast last year. Ofcom, which stands for Office of Communications, is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom

In a detailed note on its decision, Ofcom said that Republic Bharat’s Poochta Hai Bharat programme – the evening primetime show hosted by Arnab Goswami – had failed to comply with its broadcasting rules.

According to Ofcom, an episode, shown on September 6, 2019, featured “comments made by the host and some of his guests that amounted to hate speech against Pakistani people, and derogatory and abusive treatment of Pakistani people. The content was also potentially offensive and was not sufficiently justified by the context.”

At the time, the atmosphere was charged with Pakistan’s critical reaction to India taking away Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and breaking up the state into two Centrally-ruled UTs. But the regulator did not accept this as an extenuating circumstance.

By the time the episode aired, Ofcom had already notified Republic that it had been receiving a number of complaints on content broadcast by it in relation to “highly pejorative references to members of the Pakistani community (e.g. continually referring to them as “filthy”)”.

Worldview Media Network Limited, the licensee which airs Republic Bharat in the UK, will also need to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings and is barred from repeating the programme in the UK.

The show under the scanner was a 35-minute discussion that hinged upon India’s Chandrayaan mission but sought to encompass a larger narrative on how India was advanced in space science and its neighbour Pakistan, was not.

Among participants were Major Gaurav Arya, Maj General K.K. Sinha, Prem Shukla of the BJP, and Omar Inam and Omar Altaf from Pakistan. A third Pakistani guest remained unidentified by Ofcom, and according to the transcription, was largely unable to get a word in.

“The host and the Indian guests dominated the discussion, with the Pakistani guests attempting to respond but largely being shouted down by the presenter and Indian guests,” Ofcom’s note says.

From the discussion which was often chaotic enough to flummox the transcriber, Ofcom gleaned that “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.”

The statements made in the show by guests, and including the host Goswami, said Ofcom,

“conveyed the view that all Pakistani people are 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”. One guest also described Pakistani scientists as “thieves”, while another described Pakistani people as “beggars”.”

The content “spread, incited, promoted and justified such intolerance towards Pakistani people among viewers,” found the body. As such, it said, the show violated three rules of its Broadcasting 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.”

The Code does not prohibit criticism of any country or citizens of that country, Ofcom notes, adding that “such criticism must not spill over into pejorative abuse.”