New Delhi, February 14, 2023 – The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Indian authorities to stop harassing journalists on Tuesday after tax officials raided offices of the British broadcaster BBC in New Delhi and Mumbai.
“Raiding the BBC’s India offices in the wake of a documentary criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi smacks of intimidation,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Indian authorities have used tax investigations as a pretext to target critical news outlets before, and must cease harassing BBC employees immediately, in line with the values of freedom that should be espoused in the world’s largest democracy.”
Officials from the Income Tax Department sealed the offices as part of an investigation into alleged international taxation irregularities, according to the BBC. Tax officials told news website NDTV that they were checking account books and that the raids “are not searches.” Multiple reports citing unnamed employees said authorities seized employees’ laptops and mobile phones.
The BBC is “fully cooperating” and hopes to “have this situation resolved as soon as possible,” the broadcaster said on Twitter.
The Indian government 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.
Indian tax authorities raided news outlets Newslaundry and Newsclick in 2021 following critical coverage of government policies and Modi’s supporters on the Hindu right wing.
CPJ emailed the Income Tax Department for comment but did not receive any response.
Editor’s note: The dateline was corrected after publication.