Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media in New Delhi on December 7, 2022. The Indian government recently blocked clips of a BBC documentary about Modi from being shared online. (AFP/Sajjad Hussain)

CPJ: India’s blocking of BBC documentary on PM Modi contradicts commitment to democracy

New Delhi, January 23, 2023 – In response to Indian authorities’ restricting access to the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question” on YouTube and Twitter, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement calling for access to the documentary to be restored:

“The Indian government’s order to social media platforms to block a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an attack on the free press that flagrantly contradicts the country’s stated commitment to democratic ideals,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Authorities must immediately restore full and unrestricted access to the documentary and withdraw regulations under the Information Technology Act that imperil press freedom and freedom of expression online.”

On January 20, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ordered YouTube and Twitter to take down links sharing the first episode of the two-part BBC documentary investigating Modi’s alleged role in 2002 riots in Gujarat, according to news reports.

Clips of the documentary, which did not air in India, have been shared widely on social media.

According to the Times of India, the companies complied and removed about 50 tweets and an unspecified number of YouTube videos.

The ministry issued its order under legislation, updated in 2021, that expanded government’s powers to censor online content, which CPJ criticized at the time. Authorities have also recently proposed legislation that would require intermediaries, including social media platforms, to remove news articles identified as “fake” or “false,” according to news reports.

CPJ emailed Google, Twitter, and the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for comment, but did not receive any replies.