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Arabic news broadcaster fined £25,000 by Ofcom

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An Arabic news, current affairs and entertainment broadcaster has been fined £25,000 by Ofcom for unduly promoting a political movement in Tunisia.

Arabic-language broadcaster Al Mustakillah Television Limited incurred the fine for two programmes aired in October 2011 around the general election in Tunisia.

Ofcom found that the shows breached impartiality rules by promoting the Popular Petition for Freedom, Justice and Development in Tunisia also known as 'Aridah Chaabia' and 'Al Aridah'.

The regulator learned that the Popular Petition was a manifesto written by Dr Mohamed Elhachmi Hamdi, or Dr Hamdi, who featured in both of the programmes and discussed the document.

To make matters worse, Ofcom also found that Dr Hamdi was listed as the compliance contact for Al Mustakillah Television while it was broadcasting.

During the programmes, Dr Hamdi spoke to the camera in detail about the manifesto and promoted various policies for Tunisia, covering unemployment benefits and free travel for those over the age of 65.

"Ofcom considered that Dr Hamdi was the 'person providing the service; and in this programme he clearly expressed his views and opinions on the Popular Petition both two weeks before (and then immediately after) the Tunisian General Election, when that election was clearly a matter of major political controversy and a major matter relating to current public policy," said Ofcom.

"This was in breach of Rule 5.4 - 'Programmes must exclude all expressions of the views and opinions of the person providing the service on matters of political controversy and matters relating to current public policy'."

Ofcom has fined Al Mustakillah Television Limited £25,000, but has taken into account that the firm handed back its UK broadcasting licence on November 20, 2012.

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