Income Tax survey at BBC offices continues for second day
The British media house asked the members of its broadcast department to come to the offices on Wednesday, while others have been told to work from home.
The searches by the Income Tax Department at the Mumbai and Delhi offices of British broadcaster BBC was still continuing late on Wednesday evening, more than 30 hours after they started on Tuesday.
The searches, which the officials have dubbed a “survey operation”, were initiated less than a month after the BBC released a two-part documentary that examined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the communal riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002.
Officials had told PTI on Tuesday morning that the survey was part of a tax evasion investigation into the business operations of the BBC in India. In a survey, the department only covers the business premises of a company and does not search homes and other locations of its promoters or directors.
On Wednesday, only members of the broadcast department were asked to come to the offices while other were told to work from home, NDTV reported, citing an email by the BBC to its employees.
“Employees can refrain from answering questions on personal income if asked so,” the broadcaster said in the email, according to NDTV. “They should answer other salary-related queries.”
The BBC also advised its staff to cooperate with the officials and “answer questions comprehensively”.
So far, the United Kingdom government has not released any official statement about the action. But global media rights advocates and India’s opposition leaders have condemned the searches.
From Emergency to Modi: How the BBC has played a major role in India
The BBC documentary
The BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, alleges that a team sent by the British government had found that Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat when the 2002 riots took place, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence against Muslims.
It also reveals for the first time that a report commissioned by the United Kingdom government had stated that the riots had “all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing”.
The Indian government, however, dismissed it as “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative”. It also blocked videos and tweets sharing links to the documentary using emergency powers available under the Information Technology Rules, 2021.
The BBC has defended the documentary, saying that it was “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards”.
After Tuesday’s searches, BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia described the BBC as the “most corrupt organisation in the world”. He also accused the broadcaster of unleashing “venomous” reporting against India.