New Delhi: News reports on Saturday (January 21) revealed that the Narendra Modi government has asked both YouTube and Twitter to remove links posting the BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat communal violence. The two platforms have reportedly agreed to take this action.
Several tweets and video links posting the documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, have been removed. Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien tweeted that his tweet sharing a link to the documentary had been removed by Twitter. The notice he received from Twitter confirmed that his tweet was removed based on a request from the Indian government.
CENSORSHIP@Twitter @TwitterIndia HAS TAKEN DOWN MY TWEET of the #BBCDocumentary, it received lakhs of views
The 1 hr @BBC docu exposes how PM @narendramodi HATES MINORITIES
Here’s👇the mail I recieved. Also see flimsy reason given. Oppn will continue to fight the good fight pic.twitter.com/8lfR0XPViJ
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) January 21, 2023
According to the Indian Express, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has directed YouTube to block multiple videos all of which had contained episode 1 of the BBC documentary (only one episode has been released so far). In addition, Twitter was told to block over 50 tweets that contained links to these videos, sources told the newspaper.
This action has reportedly been taken used the ministry’s emergency powers under the controversial IT Rules, 2021. The newspaper said that the documentary had been looked at by senior officials from multiple ministries, who found it to be “undermining sovereignty and integrity of India, and having the potential to adversely impact India’s friendly relations with foreign states”, which allows the Centre to invoke the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021.
NDTV reported that YouTube has also been told to make sure new links with the video, if they are to appear, are also taken down.
‘India: The Modi Question,’ looks at “the tensions between Prime Minister Modi and the country’s Muslim minority”, as well as “investigating claims” concerning his role in the large-scale communal violence that erupted in Gujarat in the months of February and March, in 2002, that left “over a thousand dead.”
The documentary cites a hitherto unseen UK government inquiry report which says that “Narendra Modi is directly responsible”. Former foreign secretary Jack Straw (2001-2006) says in the film that the British team “produced a very thorough report.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke of the documentary in parliament on Friday, appearing to defend Modi.
“Mr Speaker, the UK government’s position on this has been clear and long standing and hasn’t changed. Of course, we don’t tolerate persecution where it appears anywhere but I am not sure I agree at all with the characterisation that the honourable gentleman has put forward,” he said.
A day before that, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the government thinks “this is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative.”
“The bias, the lack of objectivity, and frankly a continuing colonial mindset, is blatantly visible,” he added.
BBC has stood by its documentary, noting that it met the highest editorial standards.