Several opposition parties and press bodies have criticised the survey operations at BBC’s premises.
Sana Ejaz | TwoCircles.net
NEW DELHI — The Income Tax (I-T) department ‘survey’ related operations at the BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai continued for the second day on Wednesday, IANS reported.
The ‘survey’ operations, which had begun on Tuesday at around 11.30 a.m., continued the whole day and even throughout the night, and are currently going on at the UK’s official broadcaster’s premises in Delhi and Mumbai, reports quoting sources said.
Modi documentary fallout: Income Tax department searches BBC offices in Delhi, Mumbai
Meanwhile, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is learnt to have informed its employees to work from home and has even advised them to refrain from answering questions related to personal income.
However, the broadcaster has at the same time directed its employees to answer other salary-related questions.
The employees have been asked to cooperate with the officials and answer their queries comprehensively.
The I-T department’s “survey” is learnt to be focussed on accounts, reports said.
The operation by the I-T department came just weeks after the BBC released a two-part documentary titled ‘India: The Modi Question’, which focuses on the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.
The two-part documentary series was taken down from public platforms last month after Centre used emergency powers under IT Rules to block YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the documentary. The government slammed the documentary as “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage”.
Opposition leaders and students protested against what they called blatant censorship by organising public screenings of the documentary, which led to clashes on campus between students, college authorities and the police.
The documentary created furore throughout the country after it went viral, and was later taken down from all platforms as well as social media outlets.
Several opposition parties led by the Congress have criticised the survey operations at BBC’s premises.
Congress chief spokesman Jairam Ramesh termed the income tax survey at the BBC offices as “intimidation tactics” and alleged that the action shows the Modi government is “scared” of criticism, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge tweeted, “Time and again, there has been an assault on freedom of the press under the Modi government. This is done with brazen & unapologetic vengeance to strangulate remotely critical voices.”
“No Democracy can survive if institutions are used to attack Opposition and Media. People will resist this,” he said in another tweet.
The BJP hit back at the Congress and BCC accusing the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) of unleashing “venomous” reporting against India and alleged that its propaganda and the Congress’ agenda go together.
Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor claimed that the “raids by 20 tax officials on the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices” will be seen worldwide as “petty retaliation for the BBC documentary”.
“No institution is above the law, but the raids by 20 tax officials on the @BBC’s Delhi & Mumbai offices & studios are a deplorable own-goal. They will be seen worldwide as petty retaliation for the BBC documentary & as confirmation of the BJP Govt’s drive to stifle press freedom,” Tharoor tweeted.
Press Club of India (PCI) Tuesday condemned the income tax “surveys” at the office of the BBC in Delhi and Mumbai.
“The ‘surveys’ are part of a series of attacks on the media by government agencies in recent times, especially against those sections of the media that the government perceives is hostile to it and critical of the ruling establishment,” PCI said in a statement.
‘Clear case of vendetta:’ PCI condemns IT ‘surveys’ at BBC offices in Delhi, Mumbai
“It is deeply unfortunate as this latest instance appears to be a clear-cut case of vendetta, coming within weeks of a documentary aired by the BBC on the Gujarat riots,” it said.
The PCI said that the documentary, which appears to be the immediate provocation for the raids, has already been banned on YouTube and other social media platforms.
“We are deeply concerned and distressed that such an action on an international broadcasting network will damage the reputation and image of India as the largest democracy in the world. We appeal to the government to restrain its agencies from misusing their powers to intimidate the media and put curbs on the freedom of the press,” the statement read.
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) said it “is deeply concerned about the IT ‘surveys’ being carried out at the offices of BBC India.”
“Is distressed by the continuing trend of government agencies being used to intimidate and harass news organizations that are critical of the ruling establishment,” the EGI said in a tweet.
Jan Hastakshep, a civil rights organisation, in a press statement, strongly condemned the raids against the Delhi and Mumbai offices of the BBC.
They have called the ongoing raids “fascist designs” and have questioned the timing of the investigation.
The statement also calls out the death of journalism under the BJP-RSS and the throttling of opposing voices since the RSS-BJP government came to power in 2014. (With IANS inputs)
Sana Ejaz is an independent journalist from Bihar. She tweets @SanaEjaz