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Indian Tax Department Ends 3-Day Investigation Into BBC’s Offices

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Indian tax department ends 3-day investigation into BBC's tax evasion

(CTN NEWS) – India’s tax authorities searched the BBC headquarters in New Delhi and Mumbai for three days, looking for evidence on the company’s business practices amid claims of tax avoidance, before leaving on Thursday.

The action was slammed by opposition political parties and other media organizations to intimidate the media.

After spending over 60 hours at the BBC office in New Delhi, television images showed tax officers departing in automobiles. About the searches that began on Tuesday morning, they said nothing.

“The Income Tax Office has left our offices in Delhi and Mumbai. We will keep working with the government and hope the situation is handled quickly,” BBC News tweeted.

 

“Our top priority is the welfare of the workers, some of whom have had to endure protracted interrogations or overnight stays. We are devoted to servicing our audiences in India and elsewhere, and our output has returned to normal.

The BBC is a dependable, independent media outlet, and it defended its staff members and reporters who will keep on reporting without fear or favor.

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioned the timing of the searches, which were conducted just weeks after a documentary critical of Modi was broadcast by the BBC in the U.K.

According to Kanchan Gupta, a ministerial adviser in India’s information and broadcasting ministry, there is no connection between the two.

“Tax rules serve the same function for everyone, whether you’re a manufacturer or a media institution. And suppose you are discovered to have broken those tax regulations.

Indian tax department ends 3 day investigation into BBCs tax evasion4

An armed security person stands stand guard at the gate of a building housing BBC office in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

In that case, the proper action is done by the law, according to Gupta, who spoke in an interview with the television news program Mirror Now.

Since inspectors got there on Tuesday morning, the Indian tax department has not yet released a comment on what caused the searches of the BBC premises.

Unnamed officials were quoted by the Press Trust of India news agency as claiming on Thursday that investigators copied electronic and physical data from the news organization and obtained financial information from a small number of BBC employees.

According to the agency, the study is being conducted to examine difficulties with foreign taxation and transfer pricing of BBC subsidiary companies.

The income tax “surveys” conducted at the BBC offices drew criticism from India’s News Broadcasters and Digital Association.

Indian tax department ends 3 day investigation into BBCs tax evasion2

Media personnel report standing outside a building housing BBC office in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

In a statement on Wednesday, the group stated that it “maintains that no institution is above the law, but it opposes any attempt to censor and intimidate the media and intervene with the free working of journalists and media organizations.”

Mallikarjun Kharge, the head of the main opposition Congress party, characterized the government’s action as an attack on press freedom under Modi’s administration.

International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders criticized the Indian government’s action as “attempts to clamp down on independent media.”

“These raids have every appearance of retribution against the BBC for airing a documentary three weeks earlier that was scathing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The group released a statement on Thursday saying, “They have arrived at a time when independent media are being persecuted increasingly frequently and when pluralism is dwindling in India due to increased media concentration.

Indian tax department ends 3 day investigation into BBCs tax evasion5

Private security guards stand outside a building housing BBC office in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The prime minister’s involvement in the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, a western state, in 2002 was examined in the documentary “India: The Modi Question,” aired in the U.K. last month.

Just at the time, he was the state’s party chief. The violence claimed the lives of almost a thousand individuals.

According to the Supreme Court, there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against Modi, who has refuted claims that the agencies operating under his control encouraged and even enabled the violence.

The court dismissed a Muslim victim’s appeal challenging Modi’s dismissal last year.

According to the BBC website, the second segment of the two-part series “examined the track record of Narendra Modi’s government following his re-election in 2019.”

India’s government reacted angrily to the program right away and used emergency powers granted to it by its information technology laws to prevent it from being broadcast there.

Indian tax department ends 3 day investigation into BBCs tax evasion3

India: The Modi Question

Local law enforcement acted quickly to halt university screenings planned in India, and social media sites like Twitter and YouTube agreed with official requests to take down links to the documentary.

At the time, the BBC stated that the program had been “rigorously researched” and featured a variety of viewpoints.

The Indian Government was allowed to respond to the issues brought up in the series, but it declined, according to the statement.

According to India’s Foreign Ministry, the documentary was an unobjective “propaganda work aimed to sell a particularly discredited narrative.”

In recent years, there has been a continuous deterioration in press freedom in India. In Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Press Freedom Index of 180 nations, the nation dropped eight spots to position 150.

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Private security guards close the gate of a building housing the BBC office in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Media watchdog organizations claim that the Modi administration has silenced social media criticism by a broad internet law that places Twitter and Facebook directly under the executive branch’s control.

Tax searches have been performed on several media organizations that criticize the government.

On the same day in 2021, police searched the offices of the independent news website Newslaundry and the left-leaning website NewsClick.

After publishing stories of mass funeral pyres and floating corpses that questioned how the government handled the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, tax officials also charged the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper with tax evasion.

When the government’s investigation department conducted a raid on the offices of New Delhi Television, a channel noted for its liberal tilt, in 2017, it claimed that it was looking into cases of loan defaults.

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