NEW DELHI: Opposition parties on Tuesday launched a blistering attack on the BJP government over taxmen’s searches at BBC offices, calling them intimidation tactics, an assault on press freedom, and a bid to muffle criticism.
The British media outlet had recently aired a two-part series on the 2002 Gujarat riots, criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his failure to check violence when he was the Gujarat chief minister back then. “Time and again, there has been an assault on freedom of press under the Modi government. This is done with brazen and unapologetic vengeance to strangulate remotely critical voices,” said Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.
The taxmen’s action will be seen as the government’s ‘petty retaliation’ for the BBC documentary, said Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. The Editors’ Guild of India also condemned the searches, saying it was “deeply concerned” about what it termed the continuation of a “trend” of using agencies to “intimidate and harass” outlets critical of the government.
It recalled that similar surveys were conducted in 2021 at the offices of NewsClick, Newslaundry, Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar. “In each case, the raids and surveys were against the backdrop of critical coverage of the government establishment by the news organisations,” the Guild said, adding: This is a trend that undermines constitutional democracy.”
Meanwhile, the BJP sought to defend the move terming it a ‘routine survey’ that came after the broadcaster did not respond to a notice issued earlier. BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said the tax department’s action is ‘lawful’ and that it should be allowed to do its job.
Poorly researched, says British MP
British MP Bob Blackman said in a TV interview that BBC does not represent the UK govt, adding that the documentary “is a hatchet job... result of poor journalism, is badly researched, and completely unjustified”