British media regulator, Ofcom, has fined a Saudi-owned channel 120,000 pounds ($171,000) for broadcasting statements by a Bahraini opposition leader, who is now in prison, that were extracted under torture.
Al Arabiya, which is based in Dubai, featured Hassan Mushaima’s statements in a February 2016 programme, which dealt with the Bahraini uprising of 2011 and purported ties between the Bahraini opposition and Iran.
In the clip, Mushaima confesses to wanting to overthrow the Bahraini government and replace it with an Iranian style Islamic government.
The comments were filmed while he was in Bahraini police detention.
In April 2017, Ofcom upheld a complaint by Mushaima’s representative, Husain Abdulla, claiming Al Arabiya had treated Mushaima unfairly and infringed his privacy without warrant.
Al Arabiya wrongly presented the confessions as “wilful testimony”, Ofcom said.
Mushaima, who leads the Haq movement, was sentenced to life by a Bahraini military court for his role in the 2011 protests.
He has maintained that the judgement against him should be overturned as the confessions were obtained under torture.
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was established by the king of Bahrain, had earlier found that the confessions by Mushaima and other prisoners were made under torture.
Mushaima, the commission said in 2011, was forced to insult his own religion; inappropriately touched while being searched after returning from court or the medical clinic; interrogated two or three times per day; severely beaten during interrogations and burned with cigarettes and choked while being coerced to confess.
“He signed false confessions as a result of threats, particularly against his family. One confession stated that he had carried out operations for Hezbollah as well as kidnappings; both statements were false,” the commission’s report said.
“For three weeks he was not allowed to see a doctor regarding his injuries from beatings and burns. When he was finally allowed to have a medical examination, the doctor refused to report his injuries.”
Despite this report, Mushaima remains in prison.
In a statement published on Thursday by a Bahraini human rights group, Mushaima’s son Ali said: “Al Arabiya’s deplorable programme shows my father at his most vulnerable and it deeply distressed our whole family.”
Ali Mushaima added that the channel had “diverged” from journalistic ethics and allowed itself to become a “propoganda tool”.
Thurday’s ruling also required Al Arabiya to broadcast Ofcom’s judgement and refrain from airing the offending segment again.
Not complying with the ruling could result its UK broadcasting license being revoked.
Al Jazeera was unable to reach Al Arabiya representatives for comment.