Indian government raids BBC office

February 15, 2023

India’s tax officials have searched BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai, weeks after it aired a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the UK, the broadcaster said.

Rights groups and opposition politicians denounced the move by India’s Income Tax Department on Tuesday as an attempt to intimidate the media. 

Britain’s publicly funded national broadcaster said it was cooperating fully with authorities and hoped “to have this situation resolved as soon as possible”. Late in the evening, the BBC said officials were still at the two offices.

“Many staff have now left the building, but some have been asked to remain and are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing inquiries,” it said, adding: “Our output and journalism continues as normal.”

Indian tax authorities declined to comment.

The tax department was looking at documents related to the BBC’s business operations and its Indian arm, the Press Trust of India news agency reported citing unidentified sources. 

The Editors Guild of India denounced the move, saying it continues “a trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organisations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment”.

Aakar Patel, chair of Amnesty International India’s Board, said the raids were “a blatant affront to freedom of expression”.

“The Indian authorities are clearly trying to harass and intimidate the BBC over its critical coverage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party,” Patel said.

The investigation was undemocratic and “reeks of desperation and shows that the Modi government is scared of criticism,” tweeted KC Venugopal, general secretary of the opposition Congress party. “We condemn these intimidation tactics in the harshest terms.”

(The Sunday Morning Herald)