IAMC condemned tax raids on the offices of BBC India - IAMC

IAMC condemns India’s authoritarian raid on BBC

Washington D.C. (February 14, 2023) — The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), a Washington DC-based nonprofit organization dedicated to social justice, peace, and pluralism, has condemned the authoritarian tax raids on the offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in New Delhi and Mumbai on Tuesday.

This blatant attack on the BBC comes in retaliation for the network’s screening last month of its new documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” which establishes that India’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was complicit in the mass killings of over 1,000 Muslims two decades ago in Gujarat state when he was its chief minister.

Former UK foreign secretary Jack Straw told the documentary that a British government investigation had found that Modi had played a proactive part in pulling back the police and in tacitly encouraging the Hindu extremists who killed Muslims in 2002.

“These tax raids send a clear message to the global press that Modi will not tolerate any criticism,” IAMC Executive Director Rasheed Ahmed said. “Western leaders must promptly denounce this vicious authoritarian attack on the BBC and demand the restoration of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in India.”

Days after the BBC documentary was released, India promptly banned it and forced social media companies, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, to delete it.

Tuesday’s tax raids on the BBC are only the latest episode in Modi’s nine-year-long assault on free press since becoming prime minister. Pursuing vendetta, the Modi administration has carried out raids on critical independent media outfits in India, including NDTVThe Wirethe Bhaskar GroupNewsclick, and The Quint.

The government so harassed NDTV’s promoter, renowned journalist Prannoy Roy, that he was forced to sell his stake to Modi’s crony industrialist, Gautam Adani. Last month, a New York-based researcher exposed Adani as running “the largest con in corporate history,” through stock manipulation, without doubt aided by Modi’s corrupt regime.

Numerous global civil freedom watchdogs have condemned Modi’s serial attempts to silence the free press. Reporters Without Borders has downgraded India’s Press Freedom Rank from 142nd place to 150th, putting it behind the authoritarian regimes of Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the UAE, Nigeria, and Rwanda.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that the tax raid on the BBC was “a pretext to target critical news outlets” and the administration “must cease harassing BBC employees immediately, in line with the values of freedom that should be espoused in the world’s largest democracy.” The CPJ had earlier reported that India had tied with Mexico for the highest number of journalist murders in 2021.

For two years, Freedom House, a Washington, DC-based research organization, has downgraded India’s democracy from “Free” to “Partly Free,” citing “new rules that made it easier for authorities to compel social media platforms to remove unlawful content,” “discriminatory policies,” and “a rise in persecution affecting the Muslim population.”

The New York Times Editorial Board wrote two days ago that Modi has “systematically cracked down on all manner of free speech and dissent, increasing its emergency powers to block information it wants to keep from the Indian people and making it easier to hold dissidents under murky antiterrorism laws.”

“The US must recognize that Modi’s authoritarianism threatens its economic and security interests in the region, introducing violent destability into what is clearly no longer the world’s largest democracy,” added Mr. Rasheed Ahmed.