The British Broadcasting Corporation has been barred from filming in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across India for five years, reported The Indian Express on Friday. In a letter issued by the Centre on April 10, the BBC was informed that the ban, which is effective immediately, has been put in place for “irreparable damage done to India’s reputation”.
The order comes in the backdrop of a documentary shot by BBC correspondent Justin Rowlatt at Kaziranga National Park, which highlights the government’s aggressive policy to protect endangered rhinos from poachers. The fresh order is an update to the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s showcause notice to the broadcaster, which prohibited it from filming in the country’s tiger reserves. The authority had issued a memorandum saying that the BBC had not submitted the documentary to the environment and external affairs ministries for a mandatory preview.
The new order stated that the Environment Ministry had “examined the matter” and found that the BBC had “projected a negative, malicious and sensational portrayal of India’s conservation success story at Kaziranga Tiger Reserve”. Ministry officials told The Indian Express that it has denied at least four filming applications by the BBC and its Natural History Unit since March.
A BBC spokesperson had said that such an order would be a big disappointment. “The programme was balanced, impartial and accurately reported what we found on arrival. It covered both the successes achieved through India’s conservation policies and the challenges. We approached the relevant government authorities to ensure their position was fully reflected, but they declined to take part,” the spokesperson had said.
On February 14, the NTCA had issued a notice against airing the programme without approval from the ministries. The documentary was telecast on February 11. Killing for Conservation showed that rangers are allowed to shoot people to stop poaching. According to Rowlatt, this shoot-at-sight policy had led to the killing of 23 people by forest guards, even as 17 rhinos have been poached at the park in the past year.
Earlier, the Environment Ministry had recommended blacklisting the BBC. “They [the BBC] have misrepresented facts and selectively over-dramatised interviews and old footage,” Park Director Satyendra Singh had said. “They had a different agenda fuelled by certain foreign NGOs and local elements opposed to conservation.”
The Kaziranga National Park is a world heritage site and considered the most prestigious wildlife reserve in India.