UK Government Stands Up for BBC Following Controversial Survey at Indian Offices

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The UK government has shown support for BBC amid the controversy regarding the documentary on Indian PM Narendra Modi. A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) junior minister stated that the UK government stands up for BBC and that it is monitoring the situation.

On February 14, the Indian Income Tax department started conducting what it called a ‘survey’ of the Delhi and Mumbai offices of BBC. The survey started shortly after the BBC released its documentary titled ‘India: the Modi Question’ that criticized the Indian PM’s politics during the Gujarat riots. The survey lasted for three days and was closely monitored by the British government.

David Rutley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has now said that the broad relationship between India and the UK has allowed the two governments to discuss the issue in a “constructive manner.” Showing support for BBC, Rutley said, “We stand up for the BBC. We fund the BBC. We think the BBC World Service is vital. We want the BBC to have that editorial freedom.

“It criticizes us (government), it criticizes the (Opposition) Labour party, and it has that freedom that we believe is so important. That freedom is key, and we want to be able to communicate its importance to our friends across the world, including the government in India,” he went on to say.

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Northern Ireland MP Jim Shannon raised a question about the British government staying silent on the issue. “The raids happened seven days ago. Since then – I say this respectfully – there has been silence from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. No government statements have been issued, and it has taken an urgent question to encourage the government to condemn this blatant attack on press freedoms,” he stated.

When other Labour Party MPs pointed out that this was not the first time authorities in India had undertaken such investigations after a media organization was critical toward the government, Rutley said the government views on media freedom must be communicated clearly with other governments as these are principals essential for “robust democracies.”

The minister declined to comment on some of the other concerns raised stating that there is an ongoing investigation.

Vineet Washington

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