BBC Documentary: Germany Calls on India to Uphold Press Freedom

The reaction from Germany comes two days after a US State Department official commented on the same, appealing to India to ensure press freedom.

New Delhi: Germany’s foreign ministry on Friday, January 28, reacted to India’s decision to ban the BBC documentary on Narendra Modi, stating that freedom of the press and speech is important.

Talking about the ongoing controversy around the documentary in India, a foreign ministry’s spokesperson, during a regular press briefing, in German said, “The constitution (of India) enshrines fundamental rights and freedoms. Freedom of the press and speech are among those. Germany shares these values with our India partners. Germany stands up for these values all over the world and which we, of course, discuss with India on regular basis.”

Two days prior, a US State Department spokesperson, Ned Prince, had also commented on the controversy. He had said it was a “matter of press freedom”, stating that it was high time to highlight the importance of democratic principles like freedom of expression and make it a point around the world as well as in India.

“We support the importance of a free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles, such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, as human rights that contribute to the strengthening of our democracies. This is a point we make in our relationships around the world. It’s certainly a point we’ve made in India as well,” news agency ANI quoted Prince as saying, when he was queried about the issue by a reporter.

Earlier, however, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had distanced himself from the BBC documentary series, saying he “doesn’t agree with the characterisation” of his Indian counterpart. His response came when he was asked about the controversy by a Pakistan-origin MP Imran Hussain in the British parliament.

As the controversy rages on, the ministry of external affairs had already dismissed the documentary as a “propaganda piece” .”We think this is a propaganda piece. This has no objectivity. This is biased. Do note that this hasn’t been screened in India. We don’t want to answer more on this so that this doesn’t get much dignity,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said.

Meanwhile, opposition parties and student groups across the country have been trying to publicly screen the documentary, leading to clashes with police in some instances. Students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University alleged that power was cut off when they tried to screen the documentary on the campus. JNU students watched the documentary on their laptops and mobile phones. Similar situation was reported at Ambedkar University in Delhi. At Delhi University, police detained 24 people and imposed Section 144 on the campus after they tried to hold a mass screening of the banned documentary.