BBC does not have an agenda, says its chief after India’s tax surveys
The British broadcaster’s Director General Tim Davie has told staff in India to report without fear or favour.
The BBC does not have an agenda and is driven by purpose, its Director General Tim Davie has said, a week after Indian tax authorities searched the British broadcaster’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices.
“Our first public purpose is to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them,” he said in an email to staff in India, according to the BBC.
The searches, which the officials had described as a “survey operation”, began on February 14 and lasted nearly 60 hours. The Central Board of Direct Taxes had claimed that the three-day inspection revealed that the BBC’s income in India is not commensurate with the scale of operations in the country.
The searches were conducted less than a month after the BBC released a two-part documentary that examined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 people – most of them Muslims – were killed.
The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had claimed that there was no connection between the BBC documentary and the Income Tax surveys.
However, defending the government’s action, the Bharatiya Janata Party had criticised the BBC, claiming that the broadcaster has a “tainted and black history of working with malice against India”. It had also accused the channel of supporting “anti-national forces”.
On Thursday, Davie thanked the BBC staff in India, saying the broadcaster would help them do their jobs effectively and safely.
“Nothing is more important than our ability to report without fear or favour,” he said. “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.”
Several global media rights advocates and India’s opposition leaders had condemned the searches, saying the timing of the action just weeks after the documentary aired “smacked of intimidation”.
On February 22, the British government had finally come out in support of the BBC. British Foreign Office Minister David Rutley said that the freedom of a news organisation to criticise anyone it chooses is important.
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