Islam Channel fined £40K for ‘antisemitic hate speech’

Media regulator Ofcom has fined Islam Channel £40,000 over a documentary it broadcast in 2021 which constituted “antisemitic hate speech.”

Ofcom said Islam Channel had been sanctioned for “serious and repeated breaches” of  broadcasting rules relating to “The Andinia Plan,” a one-hour documentary that examined an alleged secret plan to establish a second Jewish state in Patagonia, the southern region of South America governed by Argentina and Chile.

The regulator said the “conspiracy theory” originated in a neo-Nazi publication and “amounted to hate speech against Jewish people.”

“This antisemitic content was also highly offensive and not sufficiently justified by the context,” Ofcom added.

Islam Channel has admitted error in broadcasting the documentary and has already broadcast an on-screen apology.

In its decision, Ofcom relied on the IHRA definition of antisemitism which has been heavily promoted by Israel lobby groups, but criticised by pro Palestinians who say it neuters criticism of Israel.

Ofcom said The Andinia Plan theory originated in a neo-Nazi publication and is widely regarded as a manifestation of antisemitism. It said “the conspiracy theory gained widespread popularity, especially among right-wing nationalists, and has been used as an instrument of antisemitic propaganda and to incite hatred towards the Jewish population.”

“The theory itself touches on common antisemitic tropes: stereotypical allegations about the power of Jewish people as a collective, in particular the myth of a world Jewish conspiracy; the myth about Jewish people secretly controlling international and financial institutions; and the suggestion that Jewish people are more loyal to the state of Israel than to the interests of their own nation…

“The treatment of the Andinia Plan theory by the contributors in the programme who were described in this way drew on common antisemitic tropes. Contributors: made stereotypical allegations about the power of Jewish people as a collective, in particular the myth of Jewish people controlling the media and financial institutions; suggested that Jewish people are more loyal to the state of Israel than to the interests of their own nations; held Jewish people or Israel collectively responsible for the real or imagined wrongdoings of individual Jews, non-Jews and non-Israelis; and attributed motives to conduct by Israelis that was not attributed to people from other nations displaying the same conduct.

“Overall, we considered that the cumulative effect of the programme was to suggest to the audience that there is credible evidence of a secret plan to establish either a new Jewish state in, or Jewish control of, Patagonia; and that this is being carried out by an international Zionist conspiracy which controls multiple front organisations.”

Islam Channel apology

In its representations to Ofcom, Islam Channel fully accepted that it had breached the Broadcasting Code and “apologised unreservedly” for having broadcast the programme and for any offence caused.

It issued the following apology twice in March 2021:

Ofcom. Editorial credit: T. Schneider / Shutterstock.com

“An Apology from Islam Channel: On 22nd February at 9pm a documentary entitled The Andinia Plan was broadcast. It was an old documentary which was produced by a third party. This was shown due to an error by a new member of staff and should not have been broadcast. It contained material which would be considered offensive to Jewish people. We apologise unreservedly for any offence caused and would like to make it clear that Islam Channel profoundly regrets that this programme was broadcast and does not endorse any of the opinions expressed in this documentary. Islam Channel aims to promote mutual respect between different communities, faiths and cultures and would not wish to do anything to undermine this aim.”

Islam Channel added that it had since implemented a policy of employing staff who had a broader experience of the television industry and, therefore, greater awareness of regulatory matters.

However, it said while it regrets the circumstances surrounding the broadcast immensely, it did not believe they could have been foreseen, and asked that Ofcom take account of “the unusual nature of these difficult circumstances” and accept its “unreserved apology and… assurances that this was a genuine one-off error and not in any way a reflection of [its] values, team, systems or procedures.”

The broadcaster said this was “an isolated error by one individual, acting in an uncharacteristic and unforeseeable manner, [“]. It added it was particularly upsetting “that a genuine mistake made by one individual should have resulted in this breach.”

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