By: Shubham Ghosh
British parliamentarians have reacted to the recent searches carried out at various offices of the BBC in India by its income-tax authorities saying they were “intimidation”, the BBC reported.
Last week, the broadcaster’s premises in Delhi and Mumbai were targeted and some of their staff members were questioned all night. The country’s opposition slammed the Narendra Modi government over the move saying it was an attack on the freedom of press.
The searches came weeks after the BBC aired a documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’ focusing on Modi’s role in the riots in his home state Gujarat 2002 when he was its chief minister. The BBC said it was cooperating with the probe.
David Rutley, the UK’s foreign office minister, said London was closely following the developments.
During a Commons debate on Tuesday (21), Labour shadow minister Fabian Hamilton opined that criticism could not be shut down unnecessarily in a democracy. He expressed concern about the motive behind the move “regardless of the official narrative as to why they took place”, the BBC reported.
“The BBC is a globally respected broadcaster rightly renowned for its high-quality, trustworthy reporting, it should be free to report and operate without intimidation,” Hamilton was quoted as saying.
Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist Party called the searches “a deliberate act of intimidation following the release of an unflattering documentary about the country’s leader”.
He even asked the British government to summon the Indian high commissioner over the matter.
Conservative parliamentarian Sir Julian Lewis called the searches “extremely worrying”.
The Modi government called the documentary “hostile propaganda” and asked social media platforms to take down materials related to it. There were also instances where students were detained after they tried to screen the documentary in university campuses.
Last month, British prime minister Rishi Sunak refused to defend the BBC and sided with his Indian counterpart saying he did not agree with the latter’s characterisation.