A UK-based TV station has been fined £75,000 by Ofcom after broadcasting hate speech about the Ahmadi community, amid growing fears that the religious group is facing persecution.
Channel 44, an Urdu-language current affairs satellite channel, broadcast two episodes of a discussion programme featuring a guest who “made repeated, serious and unsubstantiated allegations about members of the Ahmadiyya community”, the broadcasting watchdog said.
The guest, who appeared on the Point of View show, which was made in Pakistan, claimed Ahmadi people had “committed acts of murder, terrorism, and treason as well as undertaking political assassinations”.
The same guest also claimed the Ahmadi community, which has its roots in northern India in the late 19th century, was favored in Pakistan at the expense of orthodox Muslims.
The ruling comes during ongoing concern over discrimination against the Ahmadiyya movement, a minority sect of Islam that faces persecution and violence in Pakistan and Indonesia as well as hostility from some orthodox Muslims in Britain.
The Ahmadi community moved its global headquarters from Pakistan to south London in the 1980s, after a constitutional amendment declared its followers to be non-Muslims and they were later barred from practicing their faith.
During the programmes broadcast by Channel 44 in early December 2017, Ofcom said the guest “made remarks that attributed conspiratorial intent to the actions of the Pakistani authorities towards the Ahmadiyya community”.
Ofcom found the channel breached three clauses in its code, covering the context of offensive material, hate speech, and derogatory treatment of religions or communities.
Arguing that Pakistani officials had “inducted” Ahmadi people into the police and education department, the guest called on the country’s people to “rise up” against this.
City News Network (SMC) Pvt Ltd, which runs the channel, aside from the £75,000 fine, it was ordered to broadcast a statement about the ruling. The firm expressed its “regret and sincere apologies for the failings in the compliance for these two programmes”. It described the failings as unintentional and said it did not intend to cause offense to the Ahmadi community.
Similar fines on hate broadcast
Last year, a community radio station was fined £10,000 after broadcasting “abusive and derogatory” statements about the Ahmadis. Radio Ikhlas, based in Derby, suspended a presenter and broadcast an apology after a radio phone-in that discussed the beliefs of the Ahmadi community in offensive and pejorative terms.
In 2013 a TV station was fined £25,000 after broadcasting two programmes subjecting the Ahmadi community to abuse.
Takbeer TV, a free-to-air Islamic channel, made the offensive broadcast.