British communications regulator Ofcom has condemned the Abu Dhabi TV channel over its decision to broadcast an interview three years ago allegedly containing confessions by Qatari citizen Dr Mahmoud Al-Jaidah during his arbitrary detention in the Emirati capital in 2013.
The interview entitled “A documentary about Mahmoud Al-Jaidah and the secret organization in the UAE” was aired on 28 June 2017 by Abu Dhabi TV which is affiliated with the Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) and licensed by Ofcom. According to the body, the interview was recorded against the will of Dr Al-Jaidah who was reportedly tortured and mistreated during his incarceration in UAE prisons.
The programme reported Qatar’s alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which the UAE has designated as a terrorist organisation, and included Al-Jaidah discussing his alleged involvement in terrorist activities. However he claimed he was interviewed under duress and the footage was broadcast without his knowledge. Al-Jaidah subsequently filed a complaint with Ofcom through his lawyers in March 2018.
According to Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code which endorses principles of fairness and privacy, the interview constituted a serious violation of its regulations. “Ofcom considers that the breaches of Rules 7.1 and 8.1 of the Code are serious. We are therefore putting the Licensee on notice that we intend to consider the breaches for the imposition of a statutory sanction,” it said in an adjudication statement.
Abu Dhabi TV initially tried to obstruct the investigations by not responding to the broadcasting organisation’s requests, which prompted Ofcom to open an investigation into the channel’s conduct and issue a warning to it that its licence could be withdrawn. The channel was then prompted to respond by stating “that the old administration chose to ignore the broadcasting organisation’s messages, but today under the new administration, it expresses its intention to cooperate with Ofcom.”
Following the ruling, Al-Jaida said: “I am happy with this decision, which is a simple start to the realisation of justice. I have been subjected to severe torture and insulting treatment by the Emirati security and the Abu Dhabi channel to destroy me and demonise me by linking my country with terrorism, and this decision, of course, does not compensate me for the harm done to me. However, it is a simple start for justice to be done and there are many cases awaiting resolution to hold the perpetrators accountable.”
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) welcomed the decision in a statement and considered this decision as an initial step in achieving justice and redress for Al-Jaidah, “who has been subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture and degrading treatment by the authorities in the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi TV which accused him and the state of Qatar of terrorism.”
“The decision to condemn and impose sanctions on Abu Dhabi government channel is considered a historical precedent that paves the way for deterring such channels from using the media to spread hatred, spread lies and promote gross human rights violations,” it added.
“This decision also prevents the exploitation of licenses granted by countries that respect the rule of law, to falsify facts and promote suspicious agendas.”