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Homechevron_rightWorldchevron_rightWants to communicate...

Wants to communicate BBC's editorial freedom with Indian government: UK MP

Paul Rutley

London: The UK Parliament’s House of Commons. Conservative MP David Rutley said that the British government wants the BBC to have editorial freedom and wants to communicate the same with the Indian government.

He was answering questions from the Opposition and Conservative party members about the controversial BBC documentary on PM Modi and the following income tax department raid on BBC's Mumbai and Delhi offices. He asserted that the UK government funds and stands up for the BBC and believes its services are "vitally important," reported The Hindu.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Americas and Caribbean spoke on the matter for about 20 minutes. He also acknowledged that the issues being faced by NGOs and faith-based organisations in India were important ones.

Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon initiated the debate and called the income tax raid "a deliberate act of intimidation" as a response to the documentary 'India: The Modi Question'. "Let’s be very clear: this was a deliberate act of intimidation following the release of an unflattering documentary about the country’s leader," said the MP from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Conservative MP Julian Lewis said the raid is "extremely worrying". MP Drew Hendry also said the SNP [Scottish National Party] absolutely condemns this alarming attack on the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai.

Labour MP Fabian Hamilton said India was "rightly proud" of its place as the world's largest democracy but said the raids are "deeply worrying" regardless of the "official narrative". He also asked what steps are being taken to protect the BBC from intimidation. "On this side of the House, we’re particularly worried about reports that suggest the BBC staff had been forced to stay in their offices overnight and have faced lengthy questioning. In any democracy, the media must have the ability to criticise and scrutinise political leaders without fear of repercussions, and that clearly applies in this situation."

Rutley said the UK government wants to be able to communicate the importance of BBC’s editorial freedom with the Indian government. A few other MPs agreed with him. "The BBC has that freedom which we believe is vitally important and that freedom is key. We want to be able to communicate the importance of that with our colleagues ... our friends across the world, including the government in India. Media freedom and freedom of speech are essential elements for robust democracies," reported The Hindu.

He said the UK and India had a "broad and deep relationship" and the issue of BBC had been raised with the government in the context of the larger set of issues. "The British government continues to monitor the situation". He added that consular support is available for BBC's staff.

When Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone asked whether the UK government will consider working with the US and other democracies to put pressure on India and call out the "completely unacceptable behaviour," he did not answer.

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TAGS:BBCBBC documentary on PM ModiPaul Rutley
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