Canadian regulators clear VisionTV b'cast

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TORONTO -- Siding with freedom of religion and expression, Canada's TV censors on Wednesday cleared Canadian cable channel VisionTV of the charge that it aired anti-Semitic comments and talk of jihad by a controversial Muslim cleric.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council denied a series of complaints regarding a VisionTV broadcast of "Dil Dil Pakistan" in July 2007 that was hosted by Pakistani Imam Israr Ahmad.

The CBSC, which referees the Canadian airwaves on behalf of private broadcasters, said Imam Ahmad may have made anti-Semitic comments in the past, but had not done so on the cited "Dil Dil Pakistan" broadcast last July.

"It is important for us to emphasize that the hateful comments attributed to Israr Ahmad were not broadcast on VisionTV," the CBSC panel ruled.

The TV censors added that the offending broadcast did include a religious "lesson" or sermon that dealt briefly with the concept of jihad. Even so, the CBSC argued the term jihad "has no exclusive or limited meaning as a holy war."

"It is at least as understandable as referring to struggle or strife, with no necessary implication of battle or hostility," the ruling said.

The CBSC concluded that, even if Ahmad "had made hateful comments about identifiable groups" in other forums, no Canadian broadcaster was obliged to forbid access to its airwaves on that account.

"While any broadcaster may choose to avoid the provision of a platform to persons who are likely to make abusive or unduly discriminatory comments, that station or service is only required to ensure that such comments are not, in fact, aired," the CBSC ruling stated.

VisionTV faced a media storm last July when it was accused of airing offensive comments by Ahmad, who runs a religious school in Pakistan.

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