Pakistani TV news station ARY News, which airs in the UK, called Malala Yousafzai, the famous Pakistani teen who survived an attack by the Taliban, won a Nobel Peace Prize, and advocates for education for girls, an “enemy of Islam,” a “Jewish and Western agent,” a “traitor,” “anti-Pakistan” and a “blasphemer.” Its February program also slammed her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, as a traitor, blasphemer and an electricity thief.
iMediaEthics contacted the Yousafazais through the Malala Fund, but he declined to comment.
After the program, several complained to the UK broadcast regulator, including Malala’s father. The broadcaster ended up firing its host, Dr. Danish, two weeks after the broadcast for going too far. “We accept that, in this live broadcast, Dr Danish went further than our procedures allow and did not explain to viewers that Mr Yousafzai was not present to put his side of the argument to the guests,”ARY News told OfCom. “At times he appeared to get drawn in to the comments made by the guests and forgot his role as channel anchor and impartial host which we viewed as a serious breach of his position.”
The UK broadcast regulator OfCom ruled that those comments in a 52-minute live program were offensive. Ten people complained over ARY News’ Urdu-language comments, which came in a discussion about Malala’s book “I am Malala.” ARY News defended its program as “presented in the form of debate not a personal attack,” with comments being “freedom of expression” and commentary not fact.
After reviewing the program and discussing the complaints with ARY News, OfCom decided that the program was offensive without any context or balance. One way the station could have balanced its program is by getting a rebuttal or comment from Malala, her father or from their side of the matter, OfCom said.
“The level of offence was likely to have been heightened, in our view, by the fact that the programme did not include content that challenged or otherwise mitigated the various abusive and highly offensive comments made by the contributors about Malala or her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai (who was, for example, described as a ‘traitor’ and the ‘most alarming of characters’),” OfCom ruled, noting that it was made worse because two of the people on the program shouted their criticism.
Separately, OfCom upheld a complaint by Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, that the program was unfair to him since it criticized him, calling him a traitor, an electricity thief and a blasphemer, and didn’t give him a chance to respond. One such comment was “Now you tell me, is there anyone who is a greater blasphemer of the Prophet and Allan than” Yousafzai.
“The broadcaster did not take reasonable steps to satisfy itself that material facts were not presented, disregarded or omitted in a manner that was unfair to Mr Yousafzai,” OfCom ruled. “Given the serious allegations made in the programme about Mr Yousafzai, the broadcaster was required to offer him an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond. ARY News said it asked Yousafzai if he wanted to appear on the station to respond but Yousafafzai didn’t want to.
ARY News noted to OfCom it disciplined Danish and then fired him. iMediaEthics has written to ARY News and contacted Danish via Twitter for comment.
In a March tweet, Danish didn’t say the reason for leaving ARY News.
Ary news my 1st and old home and channel 92 is my new home I have great regards and love for both , but now I am in new family channel 92😊
— Dr.Danish (@DrDanish5) March 9, 2016
In February, the wire service Agence France Presse reported that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulator Authority censured ARY News for its broadcast.
“The host and guests used such words about Malala Yousafzai and her family that undoubtedly fall under hate speech and use of such words are strictly banned under the law and constitution,” PEMRA said, according to the AFP. “Issuing certificates of treason and infidelity and declaring someone the enemy of the country or an enemy of Islam is not the job of TV anchors or the participants of a TV programme.”