Indian authorities raid BBC offices after Modi documentary

Indian authorities raid BBC offices after Modi documentary
Short Url
Updated 14 February 2023

Indian authorities raid BBC offices after Modi documentary

Indian authorities raid BBC offices after Modi documentary
  • Last month govt banned program investigating deadly Gujarat riots in 2002
  • Ruling party spokesperson says British broadcaster is ‘most corrupt’ organization in the world

NEW DELHI: Indian tax authorities began searching the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai on Tuesday, weeks after the government banned the British broadcaster’s documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Income Tax Department officers arrived at the BBC offices in the KG Marg area of central Delhi and in Mumbai’s Kalina Santacruz in the morning.

While their investigation was underway, the national spokesperson of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Gaurav Bhatia, told reporters in Delhi that the BBC was “the most corrupt” organization in the world.

“If any company or organization is working in India, they have to comply with Indian law. Why are you scared if you are adhering to the law? The IT Department should be allowed to do their work,” Bhatia said.

“If they are working in India, they need to follow Indian law. If they have not done anything illegal, then what’s the worry?”

BBC staff who arrived in the office on Tuesday could not be reached by phone, but the broadcaster issued a statement confirming that the search was taking place.

“We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible,” the BBC said, adding that it was “fully cooperating” with authorities.

The raids are taking place after the release of the BBC’s two-part program, “India: The Modi Question,” which examines claims about the PM’s role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat that left more than 1,000 dead, most of them Muslim.

Modi was serving as chief minister of the western state when the violence broke out. The Indian government banned the distribution of the documentary in late January using emergency powers under information technology laws.

The raid has sent a shockwave through the Indian media.

Umakant Lakhera, president of the Press Club of India, said that the measure was “unprecedented” and “unnecessary,” had it related to tax issues.


“There is no need for such a raid. You can issue notices to them and they will submit the documents because if they are not paying tax, it is already in the public domain ... these things can be done without raids,” he told Arab News.

Lakhera said that the incident was sending an “alarming” message to all media organizations.

“The message is for other international media houses that if they want to run their activities from India, they should not be critical of government policies. This is a message to all stakeholders in the media to silence them,” he said.

“All such actions will hamper and lower the image of this country, our democracy ... we are in bad shape as far as freedom of the press is concerned.”

Since Modi took office in 2014, journalists have increasingly risked their careers over critical reporting of the government.

In the annual press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, India fell to rank 150 in 2022, its lowest-ever standing out of 180 countries.

“I think that from the freedom of expression standpoint, media and writers would come under further stress,” said Sanjay Kapoor, chief editor of the political magazine Hard News and former secretary general of the Editors Guild of India.

“It’s truly distressing that an organization like the BBC was not spared for producing a critical documentary on Mr. Modi. This will further corroborate the allegations that have appeared in Indian and foreign media that media freedom is in peril.”