UK court fines firm over Republic TV show

A LONDON court has fined the company, which has the licence to broadcast Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV in the UK, £37,500 for defaming a British businessman who was called a “ISI stooge” on the news show.

The High Court Of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division underlined that “the programme contained no evidence whatsoever to support its assertions” while holding that the allegations were “likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the Claimant”.

The claimant, Aneel Mussarat, a British businessman of Pakistani origin, was referred to as an “ISI stooge” on the show on July 22, 2020. His photograph was also broadcast along with captions that read: “Should Bollywood declare any links to pro-Pakistan, pro-terror, anti-India individuals and groups?” and “Should Bollywood renounce any links with Pakistanis who take a pro-terrorist line?”

“The programme contained serious allegations against the Claimant, who was identified by both his image and his name,” the court ruling said.

Worldview Media Network Ltd, a registered company in the UK which holds a licence with Ofcom to broadcast Republic Bharat did not participate in the legal proceedings.

“The Defendant is neither present nor represented and I have received no representations on its behalf. I have been assisted by the submissions, both written and oral, of Mr William McCormick QC who appears on behalf of the Claimant,” the order read.

“With regard to the claim for damages, I have no hesitation in concluding that the Claimant would be entitled to an award substantially in excess of the maximum permissible under 9(1)(c) but his decision to limit his claim is pragmatic in the light of the Defendant’s failure to engage and the dim prospects of recovering any of the damages awarded,” the ruling said.

The court relied on precedents that have held that any allegation of terrorism is to be regarded as extremely serious and highly damaging allowing awards of general damages well into six figures.

In December 2020, the British broadcasting regulator has also fined the company £20,000 for a debate on the channel that it found contravened the code against “hate speech”.

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