In India, which is said to be the world’s largest democracy, media and its freedom have been considered indispensable. But after income tax raids on several print and electronic media organizations in recent years, the Delhi-Mumbai offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have now come under the income tax department’s radar. The opposition has alleged that central government agencies ED and Income Tax Department are targeting people and media organizations who raise voice against the government. After airing a controversial documentary on the then Modi government’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the BBC has turned its attention to the central government. And within a few days after the release of this documentary, the Income Tax Department raided the offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation in Mumbai, Delhi, and Indian journalists’ associations and foreign media organizations have been reacting continuously against the government. Meanwhile, the BBC says our journalistic work will continue as usual and we are committed to serving our audience. Opposition parties Congress and Trinamool Congress are saying that the central government does not tolerate criticism saying that the action of the government is disappointing. At the same time, the opponents say that this step of the government is undemocratic and dictatorial.
On the other hand, the BJP is telling the BBC that it is motivated by a biased mindset and it is also being argued that the raids are within the purview of the law and the government has nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee says press freedom is being affected due to pressure from government agencies. Attempting to control the media does not allow free expression. The Editors Guild of India, on the other hand, says the body is being misused to harass media organizations critical of the government and government institutions.
Undoubtedly, the crackdown on the media by government agencies cannot rule out the possibility of tarnishing India’s image globally. Organizations advocating civil liberties and freedom of the media around the world are saying that the central government is acting intimidation after a documentary aired by the BBC. The US has not publicly commented on the matter, but has said it believes in the freedom of free media around the world. We see freedom of expression as a human right. A free media contributes to the strengthening of democracy. Freedom of press has strengthened democracy in India. In fact, the Income Tax Department’s raid on the BBC’s offices three weeks after the censorship of a documentary showing the failure of the state government in the Gujarat riots is being called an act of revenge by the international media. At the same time, the central government called this documentary anti-India with propaganda and colonial mentality. At the same time, the BBC argued that it had given the government an opportunity to present its case, but the government had not responded. Foreign media have accused the NDA government of raiding independent media organizations, human rights organizations and think tanks in India and trying to suppress their voices. It is being said that this situation reflects the state of press freedom in India. At the same time, the government argues that the purpose of the raids is related to TDS, foreign taxation. Also no organization is above the law. Notably, earlier income tax raids were conducted on the houses and offices of the owner of news portal Quint, some major newspaper houses, filmmaker and director Anurag Kashyap and actress Taapsee Pannu. Directors and actresses are making statements against the government. Even then, the opposition alleged that the government was trying to suppress the voice raised in protest.
Vikas Parasram Meshram is a journalist