New Delhi: Amid the IT surveys at the Delhi and Mumbai offices of the British broadcaster BBC, the Editors Guild of India on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” about the surveys and termed it as a continuation of a “trend” of using government agencies to “intimidate and harass” media outlets critical of the ruling establishment.
In a statement, the Guild demanded that “great care and sensitivity be shown in all such investigations so as to not undermine the rights of journalists and media organisations.”
EGI is deeply concerned about the IT “surveys” being carried out at the offices of BBC India. Is distressed by the continuing trend of government agencies being used to intimidate and harass news organisations that are critical of ruling establishment. pic.twitter.com/hM7ZkrdOiq
— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) February 14, 2023
The statement came after Income Tax authorities conducted a survey operation at the BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion.
The action, it is learnt, is being carried out to investigate some international taxation and transfer pricing issues.
The broadcaster in its statement said it was “fully cooperating” with the tax authorities.
The statement said that the surveys took place soon after “the release of two documentaries by the BBC, on the 2002 violence in Gujarat and the current status of the minorities in India,” adding that the documentaries stirred political waters, with the government criticizing the BBC for wrong and prejudiced reportage on the Gujarat violence, and attempting to ban online access and viewing of films in India.
“The survey by the I-T department is in continuation of a trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organisations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment,” the Guild said in a statement.
It recalled that IT surveys were conducted in 2021 at the offices of NewsClick, Newslaundry, Dainik Bhaskar, and Bharat Samachar.
“In each case, the raids and surveys were against the backdrop of critical coverage of the government establishment by the news organisations,” the Guild said.
“This is a trend that undermines constitutional democracy,” it said.
The Guild reiterated its earlier demand that governments ensure that such investigations are conducted within the prescribed rules and that they don’t degenerate into instruments of harassment to intimidate independent media.