BBC documentary on Prime Minister Modi removed from YouTube
In the first of a two-part reportage, an investigative team looked into the role of current prime minister during the 2002 Gujarat riots. For India’s Foreign Ministry, the investigation is steeped in "bias" and "lack of objectivity". Meanwhile, India’s Information Ministry is proposing a change in the law to prevent the spread of what the government decides to be “fake news”.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India’s Foreign Ministry has branded a recent BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi aired two days ago as "propaganda". After being posted on YouTube, it was removed yesterday.
“The bias, lack of objectivity and continuing colonial mindset is blatantly visible,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, who added that the documentary has not been screened in India. Under a new government proposal, anything deemed “fake news” by the government fact-checking agencies, would be censored.
Titled “India: The Modi Question”, the documentary is divided into two parts, the second set for release on 24 January. It is based on the findings of a team sent by the British government to inquire into the 2002 Gujarat riots. Narendra Modi, who was then the state’s chief minister, is held “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to violence between Muslims and Hindus.
Between February and March 2002, large-scale sectarian clashes claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people (twice the number officially admitted by the Indian government).
According to the fact-finding group, Modi prevented police from intervening to stop attacks against Muslims. In 2012 the Indian Supreme Court acquitted Modi of all charges, but a year later, a local magistrate agreed to see the British report.
On the day that the documentary was aired, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed changes to the law regulating online content.
For the Editors Guild of India, this is cause for serious concerns. “Already multiple laws exist to deal with content that is found to be factually incorrect,” the press body said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“This new procedure basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press” and “stifle legitimate criticism of the government”, which is necessary for the good functioning of a democracy.
In the past two years, the Indian government has repeatedly clashed with social media platforms that have refused to remove certain accounts or online content.
Under the proposed amendment, platforms would not be allowed to disseminate any information government agencies deem false or misleading. The wording of the law seems to give the government carte blanche to define what can be shared and what can be said about what it does.
To this end, the government set up a Press Information Bureau in 2019 to check the veracity of the news published by Indian media but in the last three years it has often been criticised for flagging criticism of the government, branding as fake news documents that turned out to be true.