Indian news channel fined in UK for hate speech about Pakistan

Ofcom imposes £20,000 penalty on Republic TV for ‘highly pejorative’ comments on talk show

Arnab Goswami making victory signs from passenger seat of a car
The comments were aired on a show hosted by Arnab Goswami (pictured in car), who was arrested in India in November on an unrelated matter. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
 South Asia correspondent

A rightwing Indian news channel known for its strong pro-government stance and firebrand host has been fined by the UK regulator Ofcom for broadcasting hate speech about Pakistan.

Republic TV was fined £20,000 for airing a segment on its UK service, which conveyed the view that all Pakistani people are terrorists, including “their scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians […] Even their sports people”.

The primetime show Poochta Hai Bharat aired on 6 September 2019 on the Hindi-language version of the channel, Republic Bharat. The channel was licensed to broadcast in the UK by Worldview Media Network but the network has now been banned from airing the show in the UK again.

Republic TV is one of the most widely watched channels in India, with news anchor and founder Arnab Goswami hosting aggressive current affairs debates, which regularly air rightwing and Islamophobic opinions while pointing and shouting at viewers down the camera. It is known for its fierce allegiance to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and the prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Ofcom said it had received multiple complaints from viewers for the “highly pejorative references to members of the Pakistani community (eg continually referring to them as ‘filthy’)” on Goswami’s show.

Ofcom found that statements made during a 35-minute discussion between Goswami and guests included the description of Pakistani scientists as “thieves” and Pakistani people as “beggars”. The topic of discussion was India’s recent Chandrayaan-2 mission into space but instead shifted towards the country’s alleged superiority to its neighbour and longtime adversary Pakistan.

The regulator said the show failed to comply with UK broadcasting rules as it had “spread, incited, promoted and justified such intolerance towards Pakistani people among viewers”.

This is the third time Ofcom has found Republic Bharat in breach of its broadcasting code, after previously reprimanding the channel for broadcasting graphically violent footage and for airing “uncontextualised hate speech and abusive and derogatory treatment of groups”. However, this was the first time Ofcom had issued a fine.

In response to the investigation, Republic TV had said the show did not feature hate speech but instead included “figures of speech not intended to be taken literally, which Asian viewers would have understood clearly”.

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