The United States Department of State on Wednesday said that it continues to highlight the importance of free press around the world when asked to share its view on the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The documentary, India: The Modi Question, alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi – then the chief minister of Gujarat – had prevented the police from acting to prevent the violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The first part of the documentary, released on January 17, alleges that a team sent by the British government had found that Modi was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence against Muslims.

On January 21, Centre had directed YouTube and Twitter to remove links to the BBC’s documentary by invoking the emergency blocking orders under the Information Technology Rules of 2021.

On Wednesday, the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price was asked whether banning of the BBC documentary was a matter of press freedom or freedom of speech.

“We continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles, such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, as human rights that contribute to the strengthening of our democracies.” Price said. “This is a point we make in our relationships around the world. It’s certainly a point we’ve made in India as well.”

The statement comes as screening of the documentary was disrupted at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Jamia Millia Islamia University. On Wednesday, the Delhi Police detained at least twelve students ahead of a planned screening of the documentary, The Indian Express reported.

The screening could not take place at the Jamia Milia Islamia University on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University had alleged that they were attacked with stones after a power and internet outage at the campus halted the screening. Students had also alleged that the power was intentionally cut off by the university administration.

In Hyderabad, members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, had filed a complaint with the Hyderabad University authorities against the screening of the documentary.