The BBC says it will not be “put off” from reporting in India after the government prevented a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from airing in the country and raided the broadcaster’s offices.
Indian tax authorities spent three days searching BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai last week. The raids came nearly a month after the Indian government used emergency powers to ban the two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question.”
In an email to staff in India, BBC director general Tim Davie applauded their courage in the face of what press groups and India’s main opposition Congress party have condemned as an attack on press freedom
“Nothing is more important than our ability to report without fear or favour,” Davie wrote in the email, a copy of which was shared with CNN.
“Our duty to our audiences around the world is to pursue the facts through independent and impartial journalism, and to produce and distribute the very best creative content. We won’t be put off from that task”
Davie added that the BBC “does not have an agenda.”
Indian authorities have accused the BBC of tax evasion. India’s Income Tax Department said it had found “several discrepancies and inconsistencies” in the records of “a prominent international media company.” The BBC said last week that it would “respond appropriately to any direct formal communication received from the Income Tax Department.”
Davie said in his email that the BBC continued to cooperate fully with the Indian tax authorities.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that the searches had “all the hallmarks of a reprisal,” coming as they did weeks after the Indian government prevented the Modi documentary from airing and blocked clips of it circulating on social media.
The documentary, which broadcast in the United Kingdom in January, criticized the role played by Modi as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat when riots broke out between the state’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims in 2002.
Modi was accused of not doing enough to stop the violence, which killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Modi has denied wrongdoing, and a special investigation team appointed by India’s Supreme Court in 2012 found no evidence to suggest he was to blame.
The prime minister has been accused of silencing his critics in recent months and on Thursday, a senior member of India’s Congress party was arrested for allegedly insulting Modi.
— Swati Gupta and Manveena Suri in New Delhi, Olesya Dmitracova and Martin Goillandeau in London, and Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong contributed reporting.