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Modi government blocks access to Sikh activist Nijjar murder documentary: report

The government has asked leading video-sharing platforms to restrict access to the documentary investigating the murderoutside a gurdwara in Vancouver in June 2023.

A member of a Sikh organisation holds a placard displaying Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Amritsar in India’s Punjab state on September 22, 2023. (Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Twinkle Roy

INDIA’S Narendra Modi government has mandated a number of leading video-sharing platforms to restrict access to a recent Canadian documentary investigating the murder of prominent Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a gurdwara in Vancouver, The Guardian reported.

This marks the second instance in little more than a year where New Delhi has aimed to obstruct a documentary critical of either the Indian government or its leader, prime minister Narendra Modi. In 2023, India invoked emergency laws to halt the distribution of the BBC documentary titled “India: The Modi Question.”

The 43-minute watch, “Contract to Kill”, aired by the CBC’s Fifth Estate, the national broadcaster’s investigative unit, last week showed Nijjar getting shot by two gunmen in hooded sweatshirts after they use their white vehicle to block his truck while he approached the exit of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the evening. 

Read: Canada’s Five Eyes ally questions Trudeau charges against India over Nijjar death: ‘Where’s the evidence?’

In September, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau alleged following an inquiry by his country’s national security apparatus into the murder that “agents of the Indian government” were involved in it.

India refuted Canada’s allegations, leading to strained relations between the two countries.

Read: India cooperates with Canada on Nijjar murder probe

Last week, YouTube informed the CBC that it had received an order from the Indian ministry of electronics and information technology, requesting blocking of access to the story’s video on its website. The video-sharing platform stated “the content has now been blocked from view” on the India YouTube country site, while it is still available outside the country, The Guardian report added.

While making the request, the Indian government cited the country’s Information Technology Act of 2000 that empowers it to “intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.

India also made a similar request to the social media site X which said that while it is obliged under the country’s law, it refused to agree over it and said it was in talks with the officials.

“Indian law obligates X to withhold access to this content in India; however, the content remains available elsewhere,” the social media said in an email to the CBC.

“We disagree with this action and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts. Following the Indian legal process, we are in current communication with the Indian authorities.”

Backing the documentary, Chuck Thompson, CBC’s head of public affairs, said in a statement, “CBC News stands by its journalism on this story. To ensure fairness and balance, the documentary included a wide range of voices, witnesses and subject matter experts,” The Guardian report said.

“And, as is the case with all stories on the Fifth Estate, Contract to Kill was thoroughly researched, vetted by senior editorial leaders and meets our journalistic standards,” he added.

Ottawa’s allegations that India was behind Nijjar’s killing have not led to any arrests yet, despite an ongoing police probe. The allegations resurfaced recently when New Zealand’s deputy prime minister Winston Peters visited India and appeared to cast doubt on Canada’s claims.

According to a report by the Indian Express newspaper, Peters asked while speaking to it, “Where’s the evidence? Where’s the finding right here, right now? Well, there isn’t one.”

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