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'Support Importance of Free Press': US State Department on I-T Search of BBC

India's rankings in terms of press freedom has dropped by 10 places since Modi was elected PM in 2014.

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India
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The United States reiterated its support of "the importance of free press around the world" as BBC India offices continued being searched overnight by income tax authorities.

In full: On Tuesday, 14 February, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, "We are aware of the search of the BBC offices in Delhi by Indian tax authorities. I would need to refer you to Indian authorities for the details of this search. Beyond this discrete action, what I'll say more broadly is the general point that I've consistently made in this context, but in a universal context as well."

  • "We support the importance of free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief as human rights that contribute to strengthening democracies around the world. It has strengthened this democracy here in this country. It has strengthened India's democracy," Price said

  • When Price was further questioned if the search was against the spirit or value of democracy, he replied, "I couldn't say. We're aware of the facts of these searches, but I'm just not in a position to offer a judgement."

Why it matters: India's rankings in terms of press freedom has dropped by 10 places since Modi was elected prime minister of India in 2014, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Meanwhile, the UK government is yet to issue an official response on the matter.

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The story so far: The Income Tax (I-T) department has been conducting searches at the Delhi and Mumbai offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) since Tuesday noon.

  • The BBC office is in the HT House building located on Delhi's KG Marg Road

  • Officials are also at the news organisation's office premises in Mumbai

  • BBC India employees were asked to hand over their phones to the I-T Department officials, sources told The Quint

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Between the lines: The action comes on the heels of a controversy surrounding a two-part documentary by the broadcaster focusing on Prime Minister Modi and his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

  • While the documentary titled India: The Modi Question was not made available by BBC in the country, links were posted on various social media platforms

  • Then, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting directed Youtube and Twitter to remove links to BBC’s documentary

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  PM Narendra Modi   BBC documentary   BBC 

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