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BBC Raids Demonstrate India's Declining Media Freedom Under the Modi Administration

  • Posted on March 5, 2023
  • News
  • By Akta Yadav

BBC Raids Demonstrate India's Declining Media Freedom Under the Modi Administration

About 20 Indian tax officials and police stormed into the BBC's New Delhi offices at around 11 am on February 14. According to two witnesses, they demanded that workers hand over their cell phones and put down their laptops. In a second raid by tax authorities at Mumbai, India's financial hub office, the government claimed that despite numerous requests for clarification regarding its tax affairs concerning the profits and payments from its Indian business, the BBC had not responded.

The BBC - 

The BBC has said it cooperates entirely with tax authorities and intends to resolve problems swiftly, adding that its journalists would continue to report "without fear or favor ."For this report, it declined to comment. The BBC published a two-part documentary three weeks before the searches, which the administration referred to as a "survey," in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in sectarian violence in Gujarat in 2002 was discussed. At the time, he was Gujarat's chief minister. Modi was charged in the documentary, which was only shown in Britain, with encouraging an atmosphere of impunity that promoted violence. The  BBC documentary -  The documentary has been branded "biased" and displaying a "colonial mindset" by Modi's administration. That was "politics by another means," the foreign minister S. Janshankar told the ANI news agency last week. He speculated that the timing was meant to erode support for Modi. The BBC has stated that the reporting is accurate. The Bharatiya Janata Party expects the 72-year-old prime minister to run for re-election with a strong approval rating next year. Police detained some Indian students who attempted to broadcast the video after Indian officials ordered the removal of social media posts that were shared during late January, claiming that doing so would disturb the tranquility. They were soon afterward released. According to the two people present, officials copied senior staff members' mobile phones during the tax inspections at the BBC's offices and searched computers. This has highlighted worries from some media watchdogs and journalists about what they allege is a decrease in press freedom under Modi. According to eight Indian journalists, business leaders, and media analysts contacted by Reuters, several media outlets that published news critical of the government have been scrutinized by government agencies, had their state-funded advertising suspended, and reporters arrested. There has never been a period when there is a "golden age" of Indian journalism, according to Abhinandan Sekhri, CEO of Newslaundry, an independent online media outlet whose headquarters in New Delhi was twice inspected by tax authorities in 2021 following critical coverage of the Modi regime. But it has never been this way before. In November, a judge in Delhi dismissed a criminal case the tax department had brought against Sekhri, accusing him of tax evasion and fabricating a value report. Sekhri filed a lawsuit against the government, alleging it violated his freedom of speech and fundamental rights. The Delhi High Court is currently hearing the matter. BBC Raids Demonstrate India's Declining Media Freedom Under the Modi Administration BBC Raids Demonstrate India's Declining Media Freedom Under the Modi Administration Narendra Modi -  Modi's administration vehemently denied the BBC tax inspection, the first against a foreign news organization in decades, in response to the movie. According to Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser to the Ministry of information and Broadcasting. "The BBC works under two private businesses in India: like any other foreign corporation, they are open to investigation, and tax regulations apply to them." Before the documentary aired, he claimed that the BBC had been sent more than ten tax notices. Reuters was unable to verify this independently. Requests for comment on this article from the tax department still need to be met with a response. An annual survey called the Global Press Freedom Index by the non-profit Reporters Without Borders, India has fallen from 140th place since Modi assumed office in 2014 to 150th place last year, its lowest position ever. According to Modi's administration, India's thriving free press disputes the index's findings and questions its methodology. India, the democracy with the largest population (1.4 billion), is home to thousands of publications and hundreds of TV news stations. The information ministry's advisor, Gupta, denied that any government organization had suspended advertising or targeted the media in reaction to coverage. He claimed that the administration had frequently declared that it was unacceptable and illegal to harass journalists. An industry group called the Editors Guild of India claimed that the BBC raids were an example of how "government authorities are being utilized to intimidate and harass journalistic organizations." BBC Raids Demonstrate India's Declining Media Freedom Under the Modi Administration BBC Raids Demonstrate India's Declining Media Freedom Under the Modi Administration Four comparable tax inspections against media were mentioned in 2021. In one of those, tax authorities allegedly raided the offices of Dainik Bhaskar, one of India's top newspapers by circulation, in July 2021. They claimed the newspaper had dodged taxes on income totaling 7 billion Indian rupees. The paper has disputed the accusation, and the lawsuit is still pending. Several articles, a division of DB Corp, one of India's most prominent newspaper conglomerates, claimed that the government handled the Covid-19 outbreak poorly and underreported deaths. The administration has refuted errors in its calculation and undercounting. The federal government and six BJP-controlled states abruptly stopped advertising in February 2021, according to a senior Dainik Bhaskar executive who wanted to be anonymous due to the subject's sensitive nature. According to him, the newspaper spent more than 1 billion rupees during the suspension until August 2022. The newspaper's representative chose not to respond. Requests for feedback from the state administrations went unanswered. Gupta, a senior advisor at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said that the government has yet to pull advertisements due to negative news when asked about the situation. Reporters Without Borders stated in a report from the previous year that many Indian news organizations were susceptible to financial pressure despite having a large readership due to their reliance on government advertising. Independent voices in the Indian press have also been silent, according to the report, as a result of billionaires thought to be sympathetic to Modi purchasing some media companies. The federal government reported in a declaration to parliament at the end of the previous year that it had spent 64.9 billion Indian rupees between 2014 and early December 2022 on advertising in print and electronic media. Yet, the data indicated that spending had decreased recently. Gupta claimed that although there had been complaints when the government cut back on advertising, media freedom had not been violated. Media funding is not a function of government. The speaker declared that we want to avoid a media that is obedient to or dependent on us due to the money we provide them. 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