“We are aware of search of BBC offices… by Indian tax authorities”: US

15 February, 2023 | Vaishali Sharma

BBC National

The United States confirmed on Tuesday (local time) that Indian tax authorities had searched BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai.

The United States confirmed on Tuesday (local time) that Indian tax authorities had searched BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai.

“We are aware of the search of BBC offices in Delhi by Indian tax authorities,” said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price while responding to an IT survey at BBC offices in India by a reporter. However, Price laid stress on the importance of a free press around the world and asked the reporter to refer to Indian authorities for the details of this search.

“Beyond this discrete action, what I’ll say more broadly is the general point that I’ve consistently made in this context, but in the universal context text as well. We support the importance of a free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief as human rights that contribute to strengthening democracies around the world. It has strengthened this democracy here in this country. It has strengthened India’s democracy. These universal rights are the bedrock of democracies around the world,” said Price.

Income tax officials arrived at the BBC offices on KG Marg in the national capital earlier this morning for the survey. The British broadcaster’s office in Kalina Santacruz, Mumbai, was also surveyed, according to sources, who added that the survey was limited to BBC business premises only.

A team of IT officials arrived at the BBC Studios office in Kalina Santacruz around 11.30 a.m. today, according to reports, and a survey has been ongoing since then. At the BBC News office on Linking Road in Bandra West, there is no IT activity.

It has been learned that tax officials are verifying certain account documents in the finance department of the BBC offices.

The Income Tax team confiscated the mobile phones of all employees present at the BBC office during the investigation. The computer data stored in the accounts and finance department was also scanned. According to sources, the devices will be returned to their owners after a backup is made.

The searches come just weeks after the BBC aired a documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi called “India: The Modi Question,” which sparked outrage. On January 21, the Centre issued orders to block multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts that shared links to the contentious BBC documentary on PM Modi.

 The Supreme Court had on February 3 directed the central government to produce original records relating to its decision to block the BBC documentary.