Muhammad Riyad was the 17-year-old who attacked and injured five people on a train in Wuerzburg, Germany, last year, before being killed by police. Before his attack, he made a video where he pledged loyalty to ISIS and threatened “I will slaughter you in your homes.” Afghan TV news station Ariana International broadcast 2 minutes and 15 seconds of that video during a news report on Riyad’s attack, for which ISIS claimed credit.
Now, the station, which airs in the UK, must pay a £200,000 fine (about $260,000 U.S.) to the UK broadcast regulator OfCom. OfCom announced the fine July 6 and noted that Ariana International also must broadcast the OfCom ruling and decision. An OfCom spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail “the maximum fine we can impose is £250,000, or 5% of turnover (whichever is biggest).”
Ariana TV claimed that broadcasting Riyad’s video was an “editorial error” and that the station would “never intend to put something inflammatory” on air, OfCom reported in its investigation of the report. Instead, Ariana TV claimed its Afghanistan editorial staff wanted to broadcast his video on its domestic channel but it ended up broadcasting it on the international and domestic Ariana TV channels. Ariana TV told OfCom that it wanted to show the video in Afghanistan to dispute media claims Riyad was Afghani and show he was Pakistani.
OfCom agreed it was newsworthy to report on the terrorist attack but it was not justified to air Riyad’s video which was hate speech and a “direct call to action” for Muslims to join ISIS.
“The intent was to specifically correct an error in other media coverage about the wrongdoer’s nationality as this incorrect conclusion was being used by other domestic Afghan media entities to advance their particular biased, divisionary positions,” Ariana TV told OfCom. iMediaEthics has written to Ariana TV to ask for a response to the fine and ruling.
Ariana TV added a number of editorial steps to prevent future problems, according to OfCom, including hiring a new Managing Director to help review content, adding additional editorial reviews and training for staff, and re-assigning or firing some of the employees who decided to broadcast Riyad’s video.
OfCom is the UK communications regulator, established by Parliament and funded by the industry and a government grant-in-aid. “We regulate the TV, radio and video-on-demand sectors, fixed-line telecoms, mobiles and postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate,” the OfCom website states.