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Updated: August 17, 2013 12:34 IST

UK’s media regulator fines Sikh channel for inciting violence

Parvathi Menon
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Sangat TV, a Birmingham-based satellite channel which broadcasts in Punjabi and English, will have to pay a fine of GBP 30,000 for airing a discussion programme in October last year, that incited Sikhs to take violent action against Lt Gen K S Brar, who led the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star against Sikh separatists at Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. File Photo.
PTI Sangat TV, a Birmingham-based satellite channel which broadcasts in Punjabi and English, will have to pay a fine of GBP 30,000 for airing a discussion programme in October last year, that incited Sikhs to take violent action against Lt Gen K S Brar, who led the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star against Sikh separatists at Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. File Photo.

The discussion programme aired in October last year followed an attack on Lt Gen Brar, who led the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star against Sikh separatists at the Golden Temple in 1984.

A Birmingham-based general entertainment satellite broadcaster that broadcasts in English and Punjabi has been fined a sum of 30,000 GBP by the UK communications industry regulator Ofcom for breach of Rule 3.1 of the Broadcasting Code which disallows radio or television to broadcast any programme that “is likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder.”

Sangat TV aired a half-hour programme on 1 October, 2012 in which a panel of eight discussed the attack by four men on the retired army chief Lt General G.S. Brar and his wife in central London that had taken place a few days earlier. The attack, in which Gen Brar and his wife escaped with knife injuries, was believed to have been an act of revenge for General Brar’s role in Operation Bluestar in 1984, during which he commanded the army operation that flushed militants out of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Ofcom found that the content of the programme “was likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime.” It said the statements by participants in the discussion were “an indirect call to action to members of the Sikh community to take violent action against Lieutenant-General Brar, other members of the Indian armed forces who had taken part in Operation Bluestar (the Indian Army’s controversial military operation against the Golden Temple at Amritsar in June 1984)7 or those who supported this military operation.”

In its notice, Ofcam said that some of the participants praised the violent attack on General Brar lauding the perpetrators for their service to the Sikh committee.

Regis 1, the group that owns Sangat TV is reported to have said that the fine could “cripple” them, as the TV station is run by volunteers. The group argued that this was a “one-off” incident and they therefore should not be penalized for it.

This is not the first time that Ofcam has fined broadcasters for breach of Rule 3.1. On July 5 of this year it imposed a sanction of 85,000 GBP against DM Digital Television Ltd for a live televised lecture in Urdu in which the speaker, in reference to the killing by his bodyguard of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in early 2011 for his condemnation of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, said that Muslims had a duty to kill apostates and critics of Islam and the Prophet. And in November last year it imposed a fine of 4000 GBP on Radio Asian Fever Community Interest Company for a broadcast that was seen as encourage violence against homosexual people.

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