Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sheffield-based radio station Iman FM suspended over 'terror talks'

Anwar al-Awlaki Image copyright PA
Image caption Iman FM broadcast a series of lectures by radical American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki

A community radio station has been taken off air for broadcasting more than 25 hours of lectures by an alleged al-Qaeda leader.

Sheffield-based Iman FM had its licence suspended by Ofcom for playing the lectures by radical American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

The regulator said parts of the material was "likely to encourage or incite crime or lead to disorder".

Iman FM told Ofcom it was not aware of Awlaki's background.

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In 2011 the United Nations Security Council described Awlaki as a "leader, recruiter and trainer for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula".

His sermons are thought to have inspired terrorist attacks including the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in 2015 in which 12 people died and the 2009 Fort Hood shootings, in which 13 US soldiers were killed.

Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.

Ofcom said information about Awlaki's alleged terrorist links was "freely available".

It launched an investigation of the station after a member of the public complained about the content of the lectures.

Ramadan timing complications

The station said it had downloaded and broadcast Awlaki's lectures during Ramadan - 26 May to 24 June - despite not having listened to them in their entirety beforehand.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Anwar al-Awlaki advocated violent jihad against the United States

It said it had listened to 12 hours of the audio, which it "judged to be within the parameters [of the Broadcasting Code]", but only samples of the remainder were checked.

The licensee said it had not listened to all of the lectures because of time constraints, it being a small radio station and the broadcasts happening during Ramadan.

It said that management had not picked up on the issue, not least because of the timing of the broadcasts when managers were "probably catching up on sleep".

Broadcast 'unwittingly controversial'

The station then broadcast a show on 23 June in which it condemned the lectures and apologised to listeners.

In its ruling Ofcom said it considered the breaches of the Broadcasters Code to be "extremely serious".

It said it planned to revoke Iman FM's licence and had given the station 21 days to respond.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, Iman FM said: "[It] has temporarily stopped broadcasting, this has resulted due to the regulator suspending its licence for the next 21 days, on the basis that unwittingly some controversial lectures were broadcast."

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