Questions have been raised in the British Parliament about the Income Tax department’s action on the BBC’s Indian offices.
Responding to questions, a British minister said in Parliament that he was in touch with the Indian government and that the matter had been taken into consideration.
UK MP Jim Shannon tabled an ‘urgent question’ in the House of Commons about the Income Tax investigation at the BBC offices.
Shannon, Member of Parliament for Strangford constituency, questioned whether the High Commissioner of India will be summoned in this matter.
The British government said it was looking into the matter “closely”.
Critics have questioned the probe after the release of a documentary critical of Narendra Modi titled ‘India: The Modi Question’.
“It is clear that this was a deliberate act of intimidation after the release of a documentary critical of the country’s prime minister,” Shannon said.
“After the release of the documentary, concerted efforts were made to prevent its screening. Freedom of media and freedom of journalists have been suppressed. More than ten people were arrested when students from various universities decided to telecast the documentary on the campus. In some places, electricity was cut off and internet access was disrupted. This is a suppression of journalists, human rights activists and religious minorities. The survey was conducted seven days ago. But the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has said nothing about it. The government has also not issued any statement in this regard,” he further said.
Speaking later, Secretary for Foreign Affairs David Routley said, “The broad and deep bilateral relationship guided by the Comprehensive Strategic Alliance and the India-Britain Future Relationship Plan 2030 leads to fruitful discussions with the Government of India on a wide range of issues. We are actively monitoring this matter.”
“The BBC is an institution that can operate independently without interference from the British government. I cannot comment on the allegation made by the Income Tax Department of India. The BBC said it is working in support of its staff in India offices and is fully cooperating with the Indian authorities to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Respect for law of the land is an important aspect of democracy. So is freedom of media and freedom of speech.”