Editors Guild deeply concerned about IT survey at BBC offices

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Media personnel outside the BBC office amid a survey operation conducted by Income Tax Department officials as part of a tax evasion investigation, at KG Marg in New Delhi, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023 | Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday said it was "deeply concerned" about the Income Tax surveys at the offices of BBC India and termed it as a continuation of a "trend" of using government agencies to "intimidate and harass" media outlets critical of the ruling establishment.

In a statement, the Guild also demanded that great care and sensitivity be shown in all such investigations so as to not undermine the rights of journalists and media organisations.

The statement came after Income Tax authorities conducted a survey operation at the BBC's offices in Delhi and Mumbai as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion.

The action, it is learnt, is being carried out to investigate some international taxation and transfer pricing issues.

The broadcaster said it was "fully cooperating" with the tax authorities.

"The survey by the I-T department is in continuation of a trend of using government agencies to intimidate and harass press organisations that are critical of government policies or the ruling establishment," the Guild said in a statement here.

The Guild noted that the IT survey came soon after the release of two documentaries by the BBC on the 2002 violence in Gujarat and the current status of the minorities in India.

The documentaries stirred political waters, with the government criticising the BBC for wrong and prejudiced reportage on the Gujarat violence and attempting to ban online access and viewing of the films in India, it said.

It recalled that IT surveys were conducted in 2021 at the offices of NewsClick, Newslaundry, Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar.

"In each case, the raids and surveys were against the backdrop of critical coverage of the government establishment by the news organisations," the Guild said.

"This is a trend that undermines constitutional democracy," it said.

The Guild reiterated its earlier demand that governments ensure that such investigations are conducted within the prescribed rules and that they don't degenerate into instruments of harassment to intimidate independent media.


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