India banned a critical BBC documentary. Prime Minister Narendra Modi A movement allegedly involved in deadly riots in the country more than 20 years ago was denounced by critics as an attack on press freedom.
A senior adviser to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said the orders to block the documentary were issued using “emergency powers” given to the government under India’s information and technology rules.
Senior consultant Kanchan Gupta wrote on Twitter on Saturday: “Videos on @BBCWorld on @YouTube that share hostile propaganda and anti-India bullshit disguised as ‘documentary’ and tweets linking to a BBC documentary have been blocked under India’s sovereign laws and rules.” The addition of both YouTube and Twitter complied with the order.
CNN has contacted Twitter and YouTube for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
The two-part documentary “India: The Modi Issue” criticizes Modi, who was the prime minister of the western state of Gujarat during the 2002 revolts between the state’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims.
Violence erupted after a train was bombed, killing dozens of Hindus and placing the blame on Muslims. In retaliation, Hindu mobs set fire to Muslim homes and shops. According to government figures, more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.
Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in India in 2014 on a wave of Hindu nationalism in the country of 1.3 billion people, where nearly 80% of the population follows the faith.
He had previously denied accusations in 2002 that he had failed to stop the violence, and in 2012 a special investigative team appointed by the Supreme Court of India found no evidence that he was the culprit.
Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi described the documentary as “a piece of propaganda designed to advance a certain discredited narrative”.
“This makes us wonder about the purpose of the exercise and the agenda behind it, and frankly, we don’t want to honor such efforts,” Bagchi told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.
In response, the BBC said in a statement on social media that the documentary was “rigorously researched to the highest editorial standards”.
The statement said the film took into account “a wide variety of voices, witnesses and experts… including responses from BJPs”.
The statement added that the Indian government refused to respond when contacted by the BBC.
CNN reached out to the BBC for further comment, but has yet to receive a response.
The banning of the documentary sparked resentment among many in India, as Modi supporters rallied to defend it and opposition politicians criticized the move.
BJP spokesman RP Singh said he welcomes the ban.
“With the 2024 elections in mind, an ecosystem is being built to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji,” he said on Twitter.
But opposition lawmaker Mahua Moitra said the government’s “violent acts of censorship” were unacceptable.
“Viewers will decide what the BBC show proves and disproves,” he said.
The documentary explores an unpublished British government report obtained by the BBC, which the British public broadcaster says comes in the form of a diplomatic telegram.
According to the BBC, the report reveals violence showing “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing” and claims “widespread and systematic rape of Muslim women”.
The BBC said that Jack Straw, who was UK foreign minister in 2002 and featured in the documentary, claimed that Modi “had previously played an active role in pulling back the police and tacitly inciting Hindu extremists”.
The first part of the documentary will be broadcast on the BBC on 17 January, and the second part will be broadcast on Tuesday.
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