The BBC says it will not be “removed” from reporting in India after the government banned 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 the 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 the India team, BBC director-general Tim Davie praised her courage in the face of what press groups and India’s main Congress party have criticized as an attack on press freedom.
“Nothing is more important than our ability to report without fear or favor,” Davie wrote in the email, a copy of which was shared with CNN.
“It is our duty to our audiences around the world to pursue the facts through independent and unbiased journalism, and to produce and distribute the best creative content. We will not be put off that task”
David added that the BBC “doesn’t have an agenda”.
The BBC has been arrested by Indian authorities for tax evasion. India’s Income Tax Department said it had found “several inconsistencies and discrepancies” in the records of a “prominent international media company”. The BBC said last week that it would respond appropriately to any formal direct communications 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 the searches had “all the hallmarks of revenge”, as they did weeks after the Indian government banned a Modi documentary from airing and blocked clips of it from being circulated on the social media.
The documentary, which aired in the UK in January, criticized Modi’s role 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 has been accused of not doing enough to stop the violence, which has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Modi has denied wrongdoing, and a special investigative 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 the Indian 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 reported.