New Delhi: Two days after the UK government defended the BBC after the Indian income tax (I-T) department officials ‘surveyed’ the British public broadcaster’s Delhi and Mumbai offices, its director-general Tim Davie said in an email to staff in India that the BBC will not be put off from reporting without fear or favour.
Davie thanked staff for their courage and said nothing was more important than reporting impartially, according to the BBC.
The BBC, which said that it is cooperating with the investigation, recently aired a two-part documentary critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Indian government reacted strongly to the first episode, which dealt with Modi’s alleged role as chief minister of Gujarat in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence. The government blocked it from being seen in India. The second episode, about Modi’s relationship with the Muslim community after his re-election in 2019, was also banned.
Davie, the chief executive and editor-in-chief of the BBC, said in the email, “Nothing is more important than our ability to report without fear or favour.” He also wrote, “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.”
Davie also said in the email, “I’d like to be clear: the BBC does not have an agenda – we are driven by purpose. And our first public purpose is to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them.”
Indian tax officials spent an unprecedented three days conducting a “survey” at the BBC offices with police cover.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes said it had found “discrepancies and inconsistencies” as well as evidence indicating “that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group”.
While the UK government’s response to the ‘survey’ has been muted, opposition parties have been critical of the search. Tory MP David Rutley, who is the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, answered questions about the survey on Tuesday in the UK parliament. He said the government stands up for the BBC. “It has that freedom which we believe is vitally important and that freedom is key. We want to be able to communicate the importance of that with our colleagues…our friends across the world, including the government in India,” he said.
Jim Shannon, of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), described the survey by Indian tax officials as “a deliberate act of intimidation following the release of an unflattering documentary about the country’s leader”.