Eastern Eye (UK)
Raid on BBC’s India offices ‘lawful action’
RULING PARTY DEFENDS MOVE AMID ‘EMERGENCY’ CONGRESS CLAIM
TAX authorities in India raided the BBC’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices on Tuesday (14), weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary on prime minister Narendra Modi’s actions during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
A spokesman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the BBC of engaging in “anti-India propaganda”, but said the raids were lawful and the timing had nothing to do with the government. “India is a country which gives an opportunity to every organisation,” Gaurav Bhatia told reporters. “As long as you don’t spew venom. If you have been following the law of the country, if you have nothing to hide, why be afraid of an action that is according to the law?”
In a statement on Twitter, the broadcaster said it was “fully cooperating” with authorities.
Police sealed off the BBC’s New Delhi office, which occupies two floors of a high-rise on a leafy avenue in the capital’s commercial heart.
A New Delhi-based BBC employee said officials had been “confiscating all phones” during the tax raid.
Last month, the BBC aired a twopart documentary alleging Modi told police to turn a blind eye to sectarian riots in Gujarat state, where he was chief minister at the time. The violence left at least 1,000 people dead.
A special investigative team appointed by India’s Supreme Court to probe the roles of Modi and others in the violence said in 2012 it did not find any evidence to prosecute him.
India’s government blocked videos and tweets sharing links to the BBC documentary – which was not aired in the country – using emergency powers under its information technology laws.
Kanchan Gupta, a government adviser, had condemned the documentary as “hostile propaganda and antiIndia garbage”.
University student groups later organised viewings of the series despite campus bans, defying government efforts to stop its spread.
“First came the BBC documentary, that was banned,” the opposition Congress party said on Twitter.
“Now IT has raided BBC,” it continued, referring to the Income Tax Department. “Undeclared emergency.”
The Editors Guild of India said Tuesday’s tax raids were part of a wider “trend of using government agencies to intimidate or harass press organisations that are critical of government policies”.
The tax officers were still at the bureau late on Tuesday as Eastern Eye went to press. The BBC said some staff had been asked to remain at the bureau, while many had left.
“Our output and journalism continue as normal and we are committed to serving our audiences in India,” it said.
In London, the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office said it was closely monitoring reports of tax surveys at the BBC’s offices.
An Income Tax Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a “credible survey operation was ongoing” and that the department would not be able to share details.
One of two sources in the BBC’s New Delhi office told Reuters earlier in the day that tax officials were speaking with the accounts officer and no one was allowed to leave.
Another source at the organisation said the office was allowed to function as usual while the survey was on, but declined to say if officials entered the newsroom or not.