Washington [US]: The United States on Tuesday (local time) said that they are aware of the searches at BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai by Indian tax authorities.
“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.
Earlier this morning, Income tax officials arrived at BBC offices located at the national capital’s KG Marg for the survey. The British broadcaster’s office at Kalina Santacruz in Mumbai was also surveyed, sources said adding that the survey was limited to the business premises of BBC only.
According to reports, a team of IT officials arrived at the BBC Studios office in Kalina Santacruz around 11.30 am today and a survey has been going on since then. There is no IT activity at the BBC News office at Linking road Bandra West.
It is learned that the tax officials are conducting verification of certain account documents in the finance department of the BBC offices.
During the investigation, the mobile phones of all the employees present in the BBC office have been taken away by the Income Tax team. The data of the computer kept in the accounts and finance department was also scanned. According to sources, officials said the devices will be returned to their owners after taking a backup.
The searches come weeks after the BBC released a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi – ‘India: The Modi Question,” which caused controversy on January 21, the Centre had issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial 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.