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Promotion of Hatred (Television Programmes)

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 15 January 2015

4. If he will discuss with Ofcom steps to ensure that television programmes which contain promotion of hatred against Ahmadi Muslims cannot be received in the UK. (906996)

Ofcom has strict rules, set out in the broadcasting code, forbidding the broadcast of harmful extremist material and hate speech. This includes the promotion of hatred against the Ahmadi Muslim community, which is well represented in the hon. Lady’s constituency.

On 22 December, Geo TV broadcast a programme that incited hatred against the Ahmadi Muslim community. Five days later, an Ahmadi Muslim was murdered in Gujranwala, Pakistan. We know that Ofcom has an enormous job to do, given the large number of satellite TV channels, in many languages and dialects, that come into the UK. What help can the Government give Ofcom to monitor hatred that might lead to the radicalisation of some of our young people in the UK?

Ofcom does important work in this area. It is worth recording that it fined Takbeer TV £25,000 for abusing Ahmadis. Ofcom has also required it to broadcast a summary of that decision. Ofcom is investigating complaints that have been raised recently. It will assess them as quickly as possible and come to a conclusion.

After the horrific murders in France last week, it has never been more important unequivocally to assert our commitment to the right of free speech and a free press, and the right to be provocative and even offensive, including the right to lampoon religion. After last week, however, the reality is that a shadow hangs over broadcasters, bloggers, journalists and satirists. They and their staff should not have to look over their shoulder, fearing violence. Will the Minister tell the House what the Secretary of State has done to reassure them not only of the Government’s in-principle support, but that every step is being taken to give them the security they need to exercise their rights in our democratic society? Has the Secretary of State spoken directly with the media about their concerns? What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary?

The Secretary of State made very clear his views in an article in The Times on Saturday. I commend that article, and his very clear commitment to free speech and freedom of expression, to hon. Members. The security of the media and all citizens is a vital issue, one that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary take extremely seriously. As Ministers in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, we will play our part in working with them to ensure the appropriate levels of security for anyone who champions freedom of expression.