British charity regulator investigates charity that funded Peace TV

Channels handed back broadcasting licences ahead of fines for content

An investigation has been launched into a UK charity that funded television channels which have been fined by the country's media regulator.

The Charity Commission is to examine the operations of the Islamic Research Foundation International, which is run by Indian-born Zakir Naik.

Mr Naik’s television stations, Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu, were this month fined £300,000 by the UK’s media regulator OfCom for broadcasting hate speeches and incitement.

Both stations surrendered their licences last November and their broadcasts no longer air in the UK.

The Charity Commission on Friday opened a statutory inquiry into IRFI over concerns about its administration.

The investigation will focus on why the charity has continued to fund Peace TV following repeated broadcasting breaches due to hate speeches and hosting radical preachers over the last four years.

“The Commission opened an inquiry to examine the trustees’ decision making about continuing to fund the Peace TV channels despite several breaches of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code,” it said.

It will also be examining if there was a conflict of interest, as Mr Naik was a director of the company which owns the stations while also being the chair of the charity’s trustees, and will be looking at whether the funding given to Peace TV was ultimately used for charitable purposes.

The inquiry is also looking at “whether the charity’s resources and/or activities have furthered non-charitable purposes and resulted in the trustees receiving unauthorised personal benefits”.

“The Commission may extend the scope of the inquiry if additional regulatory issues emerge,” it added.

The satellite channels, which had claimed to reach 2m viewers, were funded by the IRFI, which made appeals to the Muslims watching for fundraising including during Ramadan, according to IRFI’s annual accounts lodged with the Charity Commission.

“The trust's principal activity is that of securing donations for the continuation of Peace TV in furthering the objectives of IRFI,” it states.

“Appeals are made through broadcasts on the Peace TV network, these direct donors to the IRFI website which will allow donations via credit or debit card. To facilitate greater numbers of donations the charity operates a 24/7 call centre.

“The charity uses targeted marketing campaigns in the period of Ramadan, which results in a significant influx during the period.”

Over the last four years it has generated £3m in donations.

Mr Naik, who is based in Malaysia, has been excluded from travel to the UK, India and Bangladesh and is accused by the Indian government of laundering £23m.

India and Bangladesh have accused him of inspiring terror acts. Bangladesh alleged a terror attack on a tourist café in Dhaka in 2016 that one the suspected perpetrators was inspired by his sermons and followed him on Facebook.

In 2010, Britain banned Mr Naik from entering the country, citing “unacceptable behaviour”, although officials  have never spelled out the nature of the behaviour.