HomeBusinessMediaBBC Offices in India raided by tax officials amid Modi documentary fallout

BBC Offices in India raided by tax officials amid Modi documentary fallout

Just a few weeks after the release of a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was subsequently prohibited by the government, tax department authorities stormed the BBC offices in India.

More than a dozen representatives from the nation’s income tax department showed up at the BBC offices in Delhi, where hundreds of employees are based, to conduct a “survey,” according to individuals working at the broadcaster. The offices were locked, and numerous journalists’ phones and documents were confiscated.

According to the police, many accounts and financial information were confiscated during the searches on Tuesday morning as part of a “tax evasion” inquiry into the economic activities of the BBC in India.

The raids came at a time when the BBC is embroiled in a controversy in India over a two-part documentary series, India: The Modi Question, which focused on Modi’s participation in deadly Hindu-Muslim riots that raced through his state in 2002, killing over 2,000 people, predominantly Muslims.

Rumours of Modi’s involvement in the violence have dogged him for years, and he has been barred from entering the US for more than a decade.The BBC programme showed that a British government paper from the time had judged Modi “personally culpable” for not halting the deaths of Muslims during the riots and that the bloodshed had “all the characteristics of genocide.”

The series was not shown in India, but it sparked an outrage from the Modi government, which accused the broadcaster of prejudice and a “colonial mindset,” noting that Modi had been exonerated of all accusations by a Supreme Court panel in 2012.

Emergency regulations were used to prohibit the sharing of any links or snippets from the documentary on social media. Students around the country organised screenings of the documentary at universities in violation of the prohibition, and dozens were detained by authorities.

The BBC has stood firm by the documentary, stating that it was “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards.”

Members of the opposition have criticised the BBC raids.

“At a time when India holds the presidency of the G20 nations, PM Modi continues to brazenly show India’s slide into authoritarianism and dictatorship,” said the Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi in a tweet.

Akhilesh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi party, said: “When a government stands for fear and oppression instead of fearlessness, then one should realise the end is near.”

Since the outrage over the programme, the BBC has been under heightened scrutiny, including a petition to the Supreme Court to have the BBC banned in India, which was denied by the judges.

The BBC is the latest organisation to face a tax evasion inquiry as a result of negative reporting on the Modi government. Amnesty International’s India offices, which had published multiple reports on the degradation of human rights and freedom of expression in India, were forced to close in 2020 after their accounts were frozen by a federal government agency.

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