Source: IANS, PTI
The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday expressed concern over the Income Tax (I-T) surveys at BBC India offices.
“This comes soon after the release of two documentaries by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), on the 2002 violence in Gujarat and the current status of the minorities in India. The documentaries stirred political waters with the government criticising the BBC for wrong and prejudiced reportage on the Gujarat violence, and attempted to ban online access and viewing of the films in India,” it said.
The guild said that the surveys by the I-T department are in continuation of a trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organisations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment. “In September 2021, offices of NewsClick and Newslaundry were similarly “surveyed” by the I-T department. In June 2021, there were surveys against Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar. In February 2021, the ED had conducted raids at the office of NewsClick. In each case, the raids and surveys were against the backdrop of critical coverage of the government establishment by the news organisations,” it added.
It said that this is a trend that undermines constitutional democracy. The Guild demanded that great care and sensitivity be shown in all such investigations so as to not undermine the rights of journalists and media organisations.
“The Income Tax Authorities are currently at the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and we are fully cooperating. We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible,” the BBC Press Team said in a statement.
According to officials, the I-T department conducted the survey operation as part of an investigation linked to international taxation issues of BBC subsidiary companies. The surprise action comes weeks after the British broadcaster aired a two-part documentary, India: The Modi Question.
The I-T survey has stirred up a political storm with the opposition Congress terming it as “intimidation tactics”.
In related news, Jan Hastakshep, a civil rights organisation, has strongly condemned the raids in their press release. It has called the raids “an unashamed assertion by the Modi government that it shall brook no opposition to it from any quarter, even if it is as big and powerful a media house as the BBC. This comes soon after Mr Modi’s government bought over another media house — NDTV — after it failed to pacify it by other means.”
Read the full statement by Jan Hastkshep below:
With the ongoing income tax raids on BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai, for once Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proved that he is not only a master of lies but also a man of his word. These raids come close on the heels of the recent two-part BBC documentary on Gujarat riots which it seems is costing dear to BBC now.
In the documentary, the BBC reporter asks Mr Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat – ‘If there was anything in reference to the riots which he thinks he could have done better’? The blunt answer she received was – ‘Yes, I think I should have managed the media like yours better.’
Journalism in the country has died a rapid death since the RSS-BJP government came to power in 2014. Nevertheless, the income tax raids on BBC are an unashamed assertion by the Modi government that it shall brook no opposition to it from any quarter, even if it is as big and powerful a media house as the BBC. This comes soon after Mr Modi’s government bought over another media house — NDTV — after it failed to pacify it by other means.
Question needs be asked – how come all financial irregularities were discovered only after the broadcast of the Gujarat riots documentary. There is now a history to such tactics by this government for the people to be swayed by alibis of these raids being just a survey. It is time that such highhandedness be opposed by those whose responsibility it is to guard press freedom.
Janhastakshep condemns the raids on the BBC offices and calls upon the larger journalism fraternity, democratic rights and other civil society organisations to give a resolute and immediate reply to such dastardly attack on press freedom by the Modi government.