In a hard-hitting interview, where he unequivocally expresses his condemnation of the tax surveys against the BBC, N. Ram says that “the BBC’s credibility is clearly greater than the Modi government’s credibility internationally”. Ram, the former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, adds: “I can’t think of a more credible organisation (in the world of media) than the BBC.” He says “the BBC won’t be intimidated” by these surveys, which he says are, in fact, raids although they are defined differently by the tax department. The surveys, he said, are “completely unacceptable … it’s censorship … looks like a comedy of follies”. Ram added that these surveys “could be a little bit of revenge” for the two-part BBC documentary India: The Modi Question.
In a 29-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, N. Ram also sharply and strongly criticised the British government and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in particular, for what he called “a pathetic response”. Ram asked: “Isn’t it strange that there’s nothing from Sunak so far?” He added, “I would have expected a self-respecting government to raise their concerns publicly.” The journalist said bluntly, “Sunak has been found very short.”
Ram was asked about the tax department’s statement issued on February 14, wherein it said the survey was conducted “in view of the BBC’s deliberate non-compliance with the Transfer Pricing Rules and its vast diversion of profits.” Ram said these are “sweeping allegations” and “a poor defence”. He added: “Yes, I’m skeptical (of them).” He added, “We have seen no evidence of it”. He said that “in the past, nothing is ever proved”.
Asked if there was a connection between the two-part BBC documentary India: The Modi Question, the government’s angry response and this survey, Ram said they are “clearly connected” adding “99% would see the connection … it stares you in the face”.
The journalist said even if the government has genuine tax-related questions and issues with the BBC, the survey – which continued all night and is continuing on Wednesday as well – is an “indefensible manner of treating the BBC.”
Finally, Ram said the surveys against the BBC have done “more damage than any previous attack on media freedom and free speech” to India’s international image. He said after this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s boast that India is the world’s largest democracy and the mother of democracies “lacks credibility”.
Please see the full 29-minute interview to appreciate the strength of N. Ram’s arguments and opinions.