BBC says cooperating with I-T ‘surveys’, int’l federation of journalists slams them

LONDON: The BBC in London said it “was fully cooperating” after Indian tax department officials surveyed its offices in New Delhi and Mumbai to investigate alleged tax irregularities.
A BBC spokesperson had confirmed that the income-tax authorities were at the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and that “we hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible”. Late Tuesday evening the BBC added that the I-T authorities “remain at the BBC offices”. It added that many staff had left the building “but some have been asked to remain and are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing enquiries”. The BBC said it was “supporting” the staff and “continue to hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible”.
“Our output and journalism continue as normal and we are committed to serving our audiences in India,” it said.
The surveys came just weeks after the BBC broadcast in Britain a two-part documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, on BBC Two on January 17 and 24, which the BBC said looked at “tensions between Indian PM Narendra Modi and India’s Muslim minority”. The documentary included claims about Modi’s role as chief minister in the 2002 post-Godhra riots and also claimed to show his “troubled relationship” as PM with India’s Muslim minority by covering cow lynchings, the nullification of Article 370, as well as the NRC and CAA.
Amnesty International India chair Aakar Patel said it was “a blatant affront to freedom of expression” and that “Indian authorities are clearly trying to harass and intimidate the BBC”. “The overbroad powers of the income tax department are repeatedly being weaponised to silence dissent,” he said.
The International Federation of Journalists, headquartered in Brussels, issued a statement saying: “The search of BBC offices in Mumbai and New Delhi by income tax authorities a few weeks after the broadcasting of a documentary in the UK critical of the Indian Prime Minister amounts to intimidation. We are deeply concerned by these attempts to silence critical reporting and the consequences it may have on independent journalism in the country.”
The BBC is a statutory corporation governed by a royal charter. A royal charter is an instrument of incorporation, granted by the King, which confers independent legal personality on an organisation and defines its objectives, constitution and powers to govern its own affairs. Royal Charters, granted by the sovereign on the advice of the Privy Council, have a history dating back to the 13th century. The charter guarantees the BBC’s independence.
An agreement between the secretary of state for culture, media and sport and the BBC sits alongside the charter, which outlines how much funding the BBC will receive. Funding comes entirely from the licence fee that every household that watches TV has to pay. The BBC World Service gets a grant from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and the BBC also has a commercial arm.
Ofcom is the external independent regulator of the BBC. A spokesman for Ofcom said it did not regulate the BBC’s international operations and Ofcom does not investigate complaints about the BBC’s domestic output until they have gone through the BBC complaints process first.
Between January 16 and 29, 2023 the BBC received 992 complaints about “India: The Modi Question”.
Watch Income Tax Department surveys BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai, Congress slams Centre

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