NEW DELHI (AFP) – Indian tax authorities raided the BBC’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices yesterday, weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s actions during deadly sectarian riots in 2002.
Press freedom in the world’s biggest democracy has suffered during Modi’s tenure, rights activists said, and the opposition Congress party condemned the raids, saying there was an “undeclared emergency” in the country. A spokesman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the broadcaster of engaging in “anti-India propaganda” but said the raids were lawful and the timing had nothing to do with the government.
“India is a country which gives an opportunity to every organisation as long as you don’t spew venom,” Gaurav Bhatia told reporters.
“If you have been following the law of the country, if you have nothing to hide why be afraid of an action that is according to the law?”
In a statement on Twitter, the broadcaster said it was “fully cooperating” with authorities.
“The Income Tax Authorities are currently at the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and we are fully cooperating,” it said. “We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible.”
Police sealed off the BBC’s New Delhi office, which occupies two floors of a high-rise on a leafy avenue in the capital’s commercial heart.
A New Delhi-based BBC employee said that officials had been “confiscating all phones” during the tax raid.