Wednesday , March 22 2023

BBC Boss tells India staff to report without fear


Bureau Report + BBC

LONDON/ NEW DELHI: The BBC will not be put off from reporting without fear or favor, its Director-General Tim Davie has said in an email to staff in India.

It follows searches at BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai by tax officials.

Davie thanked staff for their courage and said nothing was more important than reporting impartially.

The BBC, which is co-operating with the investigation, recently aired a documentary critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India’s government called it “hostile propaganda” and attempted to block it being aired domestically.

Davie said the BBC would help staff do their jobs effectively and safely.

“Nothing is more important than our ability to report without fear or favor,” he said in the email.

“Our duty to our audiences around the world is to pursue the facts through independent and impartial journalism, and to produce and distribute the very best creative content. We won’t be put off from that task.

“I’d like to be clear: the BBC does not have an agenda – we are driven by purpose and our first public purpose is to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them.”

Tax officials spent three days carrying out what they called a “survey” at the BBC offices.

India’s Central Board of Direct Taxes said it had found “discrepancies and inconsistencies” as well as evidence indicating “that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group”.

Earlier this week opposition MPs in the UK described the raids as “intimidation” and deeply worrying.

A Foreign Office minister would not comment on the allegations by India’s income tax department but said “we continue to follow the matter closely”.

Earlier, BBC offices in India have been searched as part of an investigation by income tax authorities.

The searches in New Delhi and Mumbai come weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary in the UK critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BBC said that it was “fully co-operating” with authorities.

“We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible,” a short statement added.

Although the documentary was broadcast on television only in the UK, India’s government has attempted to block people sharing India: The Modi Question online, calling it “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage” with a “colonial mind-set”.

Last month, police in Delhi detained students as they gathered to watch the film.

The documentary focused on the prime minister’s role in anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002, when he was chief minister of the state.

The general secretary of the opposition Congress party, KC Venugopal, said Tuesday’s search “reeks of desperation and shows that the Modi government is scared of criticism”.

“We condemn these intimidation tactics in the harshest terms. This undemocratic and dictatorial attitude cannot go on any longer,” he tweeted but Gaurav Bhatia, a spokesman from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), described the BBC as the “most corrupt organization in the world”.

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