Indian officials 'survey' BBC offices for second straight day

BBC should have nothing to fear if it follows Indian laws, says BJP spokesperson

Follow us on Google News-khaleejtimes


Published: Wed 15 Feb 2023, 3:05 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 Feb 2023, 3:24 PM

India’s tax officials 'surveyed' BBC offices in India for a second straight day on Wednesday questioning staff about the organisation's business operations in the country, some staff members said.

BBC management told editorial and other staff members to work from home after they were able to leave the office on Tuesday night, said staff who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to talk to media.

The 'surveys' came weeks after the BBC aired a documentary on 2002 sectarian riots in Gujarat state.

There was no overnight break in the 'survey' and investigators scanned the desktops of some employees who were earlier told not to use their phones and keep them aside, the staff members said.

Indian income tax officials have not made any statements since the 'surveys' were launched in the BBC’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices on Tuesday morning.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the officials were making copies of electronic and paper-based financial data from the organisation.

Rights groups and opposition politicians denounced the move by India's Income Tax Department as an attempt to intimidate the media.

Britain's publicly funded national broadcaster said it was cooperating fully with authorities and hoped "to have this situation resolved as soon as possible.” Late in the evening, the BBC said officials were still at the two offices.

“Many staff have now left the building but some have been asked to remain and are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing inquiries,” it said, adding: “Our output and journalism continue as normal.”

While there has been no British government statement so far, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday: “We are aware of the search of the BBC offices in Delhi by Indian tax authorities."

“We support the importance of a free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief as human rights that contribute to strengthening democracies around the world. It has strengthened this democracy here in this country. It has strengthened India’s democracy,” Price told reporters in Washington.

India's News Broadcasters and Digital Association criticised the income tax "surveys" at the BBC offices.

While the association "maintains that no institution is above the law, it condemns any attempt to muzzle and intimidate the media and interfere with the free functioning of journalists and media organisations,'' it said in a statement.

Gaurav Bhatia, a spokesperson for Modi's governing Bharatiya Janata Party, said the BBC should have nothing to fear if it follows Indian laws. But he added that the broadcaster's history is “tainted” and “full of hatred” for India and called it corrupt, without offering any specifics.

More news from World