Regulator orders closure of charity embroiled in TV hate speech row

The Charity Commission has ordered the winding up of the charity Islamic Research Foundation International after it funded a TV channel at the centre of a TV hate speech row.

The funding of Peace TV by the Foundation continued despite the broadcaster committing several breaches of media regulator Ofcom’s code, according to the Commission.

This includes broadcasting programmes that “incited violence and murder” and “containing hate speech and abusive treatment”, said the Charity Commission.

The charity regulator’s inquiry found that Islamic Research Foundation trustees mismanaged the charity and “did not act in its best interests” by funding Peace TV.

It has emerged that between 2015 and 2020 almost all (96%) of the charity’s spending, of around £3.6m, was handed to Universal Broadcasting Company, the parent company of the Peace TV channel’s licence holders.

In addition, the regulator’s inquiry found that “some of the charity’s trustees had been directors of companies” within the broadcasting group’ structure at the same time.

“The inquiry saw no evidence that conflicts of interest were appropriately identified and managed,” said the Commission.

It added that the trustees “repeatedly failed to consider changes or alternatives for applying charitable funds and did not learn any lessons, following Ofcom’s adverse findings”.

Previous action taken includes disqualifying the charity’s founder and trustees Dr Zakir Naik from holding leadership roles in the sector. This was later appealed, and the Charity Tribunal decided he should be disqualified for seven and a half years

In 2020 an interim manager was appointed to run the charity. This manager concluded that the charity “was no longer viable” and an order was then issued to wind up the charity.

The charity was removed from the Charity Commission register earlier this month and its remaining funds of £57,950 have been transferred to similar charities.

“This charity was mismanaged by its trustees, including through their failure to manage the charity’s relationship with Peace TV channels following Ofcom’s findings,” said Tim Hopkins, the Commission’s assistant director of investigations and inquiries.

“These and other repeated governance failures rendered the charity unviable, and the Commission’s intervention has secured its dissolution.

“As part of our intervention into this charity we determined that Dr Naik’s conduct makes him unfit to act as a trustee or hold senior management positions in any charity in England and Wales. Our order protects charities by prohibiting him from acting.”

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