LONDON: Britain’s media regulator Ofcom has revoked six licences of ARY Network in the UK three weeks after the channel went into liquidation and its chief operating officer applied for bankruptcy after losing £3million libel case to Geo and Jang Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakilur Rehman at the London High Court two months ago. Ofcom announced its decision on Thursday that ARY’s licence has been revoked but three of ARY channels in the UK – ARY Digital, ARY News and ARY QTV – were removed from Sky and Virgin Media on Monday. The closure of ARY came after the London High Court ordered ARY to pay £185,000 in libel damages to Shakilur Rehman in relation to seriously defamatory allegations broadcast in 24 programmes which the court found defamatory, libellous and baseless. Justice Sir Eady also asked ARY to pay legal fees to Rehman’s lawyers as well as success fees. The judge made the decision after ARY accepted that it had no evidence to support its allegations and that it did not defend the allegations at all. The total cost to ARY in full was around Rs 40 crore – around £3 million. The total cost of ARY’s bankruptcy is £5 million. Mir Shakilur Rehman brought defamation case against ARY in the UK after the channel – through Khara Sach programme – started a highly dangerous and vindictive campaign, using Islam and patriotism as a tool. The channel repeatedly alleged that Rehman was an agent of Indian intelligence agency RAW, Israel’s Mosaad and American CIA. ARY had alleged that Rehman is guilty of the criminal offence of treason, having conspired with RAW and other agencies; was disloyal to Pakistan; committed blasphemy; offered to broadcast the CIA’s choice of TV programmes as if they were a public service campaign, in return for payment, thereby deceiving the Pakistani people; was involved in attempting to destroy evidence at the crime scene of the attack on Hamid Mir; and ridiculed the teachings of Islam. ARY specifically stressed that Geo and Jang were traitors and defamed Islam. ARY incited violence against Rehman alleging that he was a blasphemer and had defamed Islam. In the UK territory, there were 11,000 story tickers; 113 Khara Sach programmes; Rehman was called traitor 224; he was called blasphemer 1,880 times. Rehman took case to the London High Court stressing that he was being victimised and that all allegations against him were false, wrong and had no foundation in truth. Justice sir Haddon Cove found in November 2015 that all ARY broadcasts were defamatory and each and every word had defamed Rehman. The trial at the London High Court happened in 23 October 2016 and lasted for seven days. ARY told the court that it had no evidence to back up its allegations and accepted that it had made allegations without any evidence. Following the trial the judge decided in favour of Rehman on all counts, making history. Justice Sir Eady said that there is no doubt that Mir Shakilur Rehman was singled out for persistent abuse and ridicule over a year long period; he was regularly taunted by the presence of an empty chair, the purpose of which was to suggest that he was afraid to come and defend himself against any of the allegations being made. The judge said that it was clear that ARY holds Rehman in contempt. He said ARY brought no evidence, in fact their lawyer did not even suggest that such an allegation was true. The judge said that in the court ARY didn’t defend its allegation that Rehman took money from abroad, he said there was no evidence presented, nor did ARY agree in the court that these allegations were true nor defend them as true. The judge said it was clear that ARY attempted to rouse hatred against Rehman and showed blooded-mindedness. He said that ARY put nothing forward to sustain its allegations. The judge also asked ARY to air the summary judgement and tell its viewers that Rehman had won. ARY aired the summary judgement on December 23, 2016. The court has also given injunction which means that none of the allegations against Rehman can be repeated or anyone doing so will be charged for contempt of court. The judge asked ARY to produce its bank statements before the court to prove that it can pay up but ARY told the court that it will pay Rehman. A month later, on 5 January 2016, ARY Chief Operating Officer Fayaz Ghafoor applied for bankruptcy and then few days later ARY went into liquidation, stating that it cannot pay. ARY was hoping that it will set up a new company and start anew but Shakilur Rehman’s lawyers contacted the Ofcom and then the formal investigation was initiated by the Ofcom. The media regulator confirmed three weeks ago that it had opened probe into ARY following huge concerns about regulations and content have been raised. Ofcom said in a statement on Thursday that it has revoked all six licences held by ARY Network Limited which is in liquidation. The reason for Ofcom’s decision is that ARY Network had ceased to provide the licenced services and that Ofcom was satisfied it was appropriate to revoke the licences. Ofcom decision came after Justice Sir Eady found in a landmark judgement, issued on December 2, 2016 that ARY had defamed Rehman for nearly two years and made libellous, unfounded and baseless allegations against him on its UK network. On January 27, Ofcom notified ARY Network that it was minded to revoke the licences, subject to their representations, on the basis that the company had ceased to provide all six of the services. ARY Network had ceased trading on December 31, 2016 and had been placed into voluntary liquidation on 12th January 2017. Ofcom was concerned that, despite the liquidation of the company, programmes were still being broadcast on three of the licensed services (ARY Digital, ARY QTV and ARY News). Ofcom noted that the three remaining services (ARY World News, QTV – Islamic Education Channel and ARY Entertainment) were no longer broadcasting at all. Following Ofcom’s letter of 27th January, the liquidator for ARY Network provided both written and oral representations to Ofcom. These confirmed that ARY Network was no longer providing the services and that the liquidator had been investigating the matter. In its oral representations, the liquidator explained that he believed that the services that were still on air were being provided by a third party. The liquidator also explained his role in maximising the value of the assets in the company and that he was seeking Ofcom’s permission to vary the licences to rename the channels and to begin broadcasting new content, with the intention of then selling the EPG slots on which the channels were available. Ofcom added, “Having given careful consideration to the comments made in both the written and oral representations of the liquidator, Ofcom was satisfied that ARY Network had ceased to provide all six of its licensed services and, in particular, that it did not have general control of those services within the meaning of section 362(2) of the Communications Act 2003.” Ofcom concluded, “The broadcasting regulatory framework relies on Ofcom being able to identify who is providing the licensed service at all times and to be able to hold its broadcast licensees accountable to the terms and conditions of their licences. Having regard to these functions, particularly in relation to authorising the provision of broadcasting services and regulating the content of those services, Ofcom was satisfied that it was appropriate to serve a notice on ARY Network revoking the licences. On this basis, Ofcom issued and served a notice on ARY Network on 1 February 2017 under section 238(4) of the Communications Act 2003 revoking all six of its licences with immediate effect.” Businessman Mian Mansha, bank tycoon Jahangir Siddiqui and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousufzai’s father Ziauddin Yousufzai have also filed defamation cases against ARY in the UK.