BBC Asian Network aired the name of a sexual abuse victim. That’s against the law in the UK, so the editor responsible for the broadcast, Arif Ansari, was on trial this week for naming the victim.
Today, Ansari was found not guilty.
“It is the first time a BBC editor has been charged under this Act,” the BBC noted. (The act in question is the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.) The trial was in Sheffield Magistrates’ Court.
The BBC told iMediaEthics by e-mail that “we firmly believe” the court should have charged BBC not the individual editor. “As we have said previously, we are concerned that the approach taken by the CPS risks creating a climate of fear for editors seeking to cover the courts in the public interest,” the BBC spokesperson said.
“Both our editor and our reporter continue to have our full support. The Judge commented that Rickin was a diligent reporter who had made an honest mistake,” the spokesperson continued. “This has been an incredibly difficult time for Arif. He is a highly-regarded and diligent editor who has had the threat of a criminal record hanging over him for many months. We are relieved with the court’s decision today.”
Ansari, the head of news for BBC Asian Network, vetted the script of the BBC Asian radio broadcast. The mistake happened because the reporter in question, Rickin Majithia, thought the name he heard in court was a pseudonym, when in fact, the woman used her real name in court, according to the BBC. Majithia noted it was his first time reporting in a crown court.
The victim actually was listening to the radio report and heard her identity being revealed, the Press Gazette reported. “To then have my name given out as a victim of rape on a BBC radio station was unbelievable,” the woman is quoted as saying.