The Environment Ministry has recommended that the British Broadcasting Corporation’s South Asia correspondent be blacklisted for filming a documentary that highlights the government’s aggressive policy in Kaziranga National Park to protect rhinos from poachers. “They [BBC] have misrepresented facts and selectively over-dramatised interviews and old footage. They had a different agenda fuelled by certain foreign NGOs and local elements opposed to conservation. We are exploring all options including legal steps,” park director Satyendra Singh told The Indian Express.
Correspondent Justin Rowlatt’s documentary, Killing for Conservation, shows that rangers are allowed to shoot people. According to Rowlatt, this shoot-at-sight policy has led to the killing of 23 people by forest guards, while 17 rhinos have been poached at the park in the past one year.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority issued a notice on Tuesday against airing the programme without getting approval from the Ministries of Environment and External Affairs. The documentary was aired on February 11.
In the notice, the NTCA has threatened to cancel all future permits to BBC if the programme is not removed from various online portals with immediate effect. “The immunity provided to forest officials under Section 197 of the CrPC has been construed as a ‘Shoot to Kill’ policy,” read the notice. It added that Rowlatt had changed the storyline. The NTCA has also requested the Indian High Commission in United Kingdom to initiate action, reported Mail Today.
A BBC spokesperson defended the documentary, saying that it is expected to present a “full picture”. He told The Indian Express, “The issues raised in the film are part of an important international debate on the appropriate way to combat poaching. We did approach the relevant government authorities to make sure their position was fully reflected but they declined to take part.”
The Kaziranga National Park houses around 2,400 one-horned rhinos, or two-thirds of the world’s population of the rare animal. The park is a world heritage site and considered the most prestigious wildlife reserve in India.