Sikh religious and cultural channel, KTV has landed in trouble with Ofcom for its coverage of ‘Free Jaggi Now’ – a campaign it ran on the arrest of Jagtar Singh Johal. A UK citizen, who was arrested in India on 4th November 2017, and detained in Punjab.
This 55-minute programme, which aired in January 2018, focused on support for the ‘Free Jaggi now’ campaign. It included a discussion about the alleged torture of Jaggi by India’s National Intelligence Agency during his interrogation and detention, the alleged restriction on Jaggi receiving consular assistance and an independent medical report following allegation of torture, and allegations about corruption in the Indian judiciary.
KTV stated that the ‘Free Jaggi Now’ show formed part of a series of daily shows about the abduction and detention of Jagtar Singh Johal. It said that given the serious nature of events surrounding the detention of a British citizen, and its relevance to the Punjabi community worldwide, KTV had broadcast about 150 hours of content on this subject matter over the course of five months. This included news reports and discussions shows.
KTV explained that according to reports Jaggi was “violently” apprehended by three men and eventually his family were able to determine that Jaggi had been abducted by members of the Punjab Police. However, it added that Jaggi’s access to the British authorities was “initially obstructed” and details regarding his safety and the circumstances of his arrest were not provided.
KTV accepted that due to limited resources it had experienced “teething problems” in “getting to grips” with aspects of the Code. It stated that it was: “overhauling” its internal procedures; recruiting a permanent compliance officer; providing compliance training to staff on the Code; and exploring alternative viewpoints and “retaining balance” during its programming. However, in the interim the Licensee said it had suspended live broadcasts relating to issues of political and industrial controversy.
Ofcom took into account that the programmes broadcast on KTV were mostly of interest to the Sikh community in UK. Ofcom also acknowledged that the target audience for this programme consisted of members of the UK South Asian community, who may have already been aware of Jaggi’s arrest and detention in India. However, we considered that these contextual factors did not mitigate the need to ensure that due impartiality was preserved in the absence of sufficient alternative viewpoints and/or challenge to the critical views expressed about the policies and actions of the Indian authorities.
Ofcom also took into account that the Licensee said it had taken steps to “overhaul” its compliance process. Nevertheless, for the reasons outlined above, Ofcom’s Decision is that Khalsa Television failed to preserve due impartiality and breached Rule 5.5 of the Code.