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Ofcom media regulator to penalise Abu Dhabi TV for airing unethical interview with Qatari detainee

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Ofcom media regulator to penalise Abu Dhabi TV for airing unethical interview with Qatari detainee

The UK’s media committee Ofcom have taken action against Abu Dhabi TV for the broadcast of an interview with Qatari medical doctor Mahmoud al-Jaidah. 

The Abu Dhabi TV channel aired a video interview of the former prisoner, which was conducted against his will. The interview consisted of a self-incriminating confession, which Jaidah was coerced into by UAE authorities under threats of torture. 

The committee confirmed that they have decided to “uphold Dr Al-Jaidah’s complaint of unjust or unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy in connection with the obtaining of material included in the programme and in the programme as broadcast”. 

Ofcom stated: “[We consider] the breaches of Rules 7.1 [Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes] and 8.1 [Any infringement of privacy in programmes, or in connection with obtaining material included in programmes, must be warranted] of the Code to be serious. We are therefore putting the broadcaster on notice that we intend to consider the breaches for the imposition of a statutory sanction”.

The regulator also confirmed it would impose legal sanctions on the UAE-based channel.

The Doha Human Rights Committee said in a statement "[We consider] this decision as an initial step in achieving justice and redress for the Qatari citizen, 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,".

After being held in inhumane detention conditions in the UAE between 2013 and 2015, where he was subjected to intense torture and abuse, Al-Jaidah, represented by Rodney Dixon QC, filed a complaint with Ofcom in 2018.

 The National Human Rights Committee regard Ofcom’s decision as “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".

In response to the committee's decision made Al-Jaidah said: “I am happy with this decision, which is the first step to justice”. 

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar imposing land and air blockages on the Gulf state in 2017, claiming Doha supported extremist groups and held close ties with Iran. Qatar profusely denied such claims. 

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media@icfuae.org.uk