Officials from the Income Tax department in India searched the BBC’s offices in New Delhi on Tuesday. The searches come weeks after the British broadcaster released a controversial documentary, titled “India: The Modi Question”, which examined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots. Teams from the tax department surveyed the BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai, according to officials who were not identified, as reported by the Press Trust of India news agency.
The documentary, which was banned in India last month, raised questions about Modi’s handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time. The film also examined the rise of Hindu nationalism in India under Modi’s leadership.
Following the release of the documentary, the Indian government swiftly moved to stop its broadcast and limit its dissemination on social media. The government’s actions have been criticized by press freedom advocates and political opponents, who see the move as an attack on free speech.
The BBC, however, has defended its documentary, saying that it is an impartial and balanced piece of journalism that presents a fair and accurate portrayal of events. The broadcaster has also criticized the Indian government’s attempts to restrict the film’s distribution, saying that it is a violation of freedom of expression and the press.
The search of the BBC’s offices by the Income Tax department has been seen by some as a further attempt to intimidate the broadcaster and stifle free speech. The move comes amid a broader crackdown on dissent and criticism in India, with the government using a range of tactics to suppress opposition voices, including the arrest of activists, journalists, and academics.
The Indian government has denied that the search of the BBC’s offices is politically motivated and has said that it is simply a routine tax investigation. However, the move has raised concerns about the government’s commitment to press freedom and the independence of the media in India.
The incident has also highlighted the ongoing tensions between the Indian government and international media organizations, with some accusing the government of trying to silence critical voices and control the narrative around sensitive issues. The BBC has vowed to continue reporting on India and to uphold its commitment to independent journalism, despite the challenges it faces.