On Tuesday, The Income Tax department of India reached the BBC office in Mumbai and Delhi to conduct a ‘survey’. As of now, it is now clear why the department visited the two offices. The income tax department didn’t provide any details claiming that they will provide information after the survey of the BBC offices is complete. The staff at BBC India tweeted that they are fully cooperating and are hoping that the matter gets sorted quickly.
The staff has been asked to keep their phones shut while other phones and laptops have been taken by the authorities. Nobody is allowed to enter or leave the premises. According to the reports, the London office has been informed about this development.
The Congress party, on the other hand, have blamed the recent row over the BBC documentary on PM Modi for the action. The Congress party called the moving part of what it describes as an undeclared emergency. Senior leader of the congress party, Jairam Ramesh said, "First, a BBC documentary came and it was banned. Now BBC Delhi is being raided. Undeclared emergency. Here we are demanding a JPC on the Adani saga and there the government is after the BBC.”
Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking the imposition of a ban on the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots, calling the petition "misconceived and meritless".
The BBC documentary that the Congress is referring to is “India: The Modi Question” which describes the events of the 2002 Gujarat riots. The center had ordered social media platforms to delete tweets and videos showing the documentary. The opposition slammed the move and called it an act of censorship.
The Centre later ordered social media platforms to delete tweets and videos showing the documentary. The opposition slammed the move and called it censorship, "truth shines bright. It has a nasty habit of coming out. So no amount of banning, oppression and frightening people are going to stop the truth from coming out," Congress MP Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
Following this, a BJP spokesperson called the BBC, the worst and most corrupt news channel in the world. He further added “some sections of the world cannot digest India's growing stature on the world stage. India is scaling to new heights under the leadership of MP Modi and some sections are not liking it.” He continued, “BBC has every right to do journalism in India, but they must follow the law of the country.”
On the second day of the survey, institutes like Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) based in New York, Paris-based Reporters Without Brdr (RSF) along with the United States.
Amnesty International tweeted, "these raids are a blatant affront to freedom of expression." Ex-Amnesty India head Aakar Patel said, “Indian authorities are trying to harass and intimidate the BBC. Overbroad powers of the Income Tax Department are repeatedly being weaponized to silence dissent."
CPJ has urged the Indian government to stop intimidating journalists and said “Indian authorities have used tax investigations as a pretext to target critical news outlets before, and must cease harassing BBC employees immediately, in line with the values of freedom that should be espoused in the world’s largest democracy."
The RSF tweeted “The searches by the tax authorities of the offices of @BBCWorld in #Inde, 3 weeks after the censorship of his documentary on @narendramodi, constitute an outrageous reprisal.” Meanwhile, the United States said it is aware of the survey at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offices in New Delhi but it is not in a position to offer any judgment.
US State Dept spokesperson Ned Price in his response acknowledged that the US was aware of the searches in the BBC office in India while adding, "I would need to refer you to the Indian authorities for the details of this search. Beyond this discrete action, what I’ll say more broadly is the general point that I have consistently made in this context, but in a universal context as well... to say more broadly that we support the importance of free press around the world."
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