David Ruteley, a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) junior minister, responded to an urgent question and said while that the government cannot comment on the I-T department’s allegations, it stressed that freedom of speech and media freedom are essential elements of a robust democracy.
Moreover, Rutley pointed to a deep and broad relationship with India, which translated to the UK being able to discuss several issues with New Delhi in a "constructive manner".
“We stand up for the BBC. We fund the BBC. We think the BBC World Service is vital. We want the BBC to have that editorial freedom,” said Rutley.
“It criticises us (Conservatives), it criticises the Labour party, and it has that freedom that we believe is so important. That freedom is key, and we want to be able to communicate its importance to our friends across the world, including the government in India,” he added.
Informing the House of Commons, he said that India’s I-T department conducted, what are being called ‘surveys,’ on the BBC’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices, from 14 February to 16 February.
Rutley also highlighted that the BBC is editorially and operationally independent and said that the public broadcaster hold a significant role in the UK and around the world.
"It will continue to do so, because it is important to ensure that our voice and an independent voice, through the BBC is heard throughout the world, he said.
When Opposition MPs raised questions and entered discussions about the “deeply worrying raids,” probing the UK’s communications with India, Rutley said the UK “are able to discuss a wide range of issues in a constructive manner” with the Indian government.
“As part of those conversations, this issue has been raised and we continue to monitor the situation.”
Northern Ireland MP Jim Shannon raised the urgent question and branded the I-T department’s move as a deliberate act of intimidation after the broadcaster released a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The raids happened seven days ago. Since then I say this respectfully there has been silence from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. No government statements have been issued, and it has taken an urgent question to encourage the government to condemn this blatant attack on press freedoms” Shannon, a member of Parliament for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said.
Moreover, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the British Sikh Labour MP, voiced his concerns and said that “India, a nation with which we have shared values of democracy and press freedoms, decided to conduct a raid on the BBC offices after the airing of a documentary critical of the Indian Prime Minister's actions.”
Rutley quickly responded, “These issues have absolutely been raised as part of those conversations.”
Meanwhile, other opposition MPs pointed out that it is not the first time that Indian authorities have undrtaken "investigations into media organisations that are critical of the current government."
"We need to ensure that our views on media freedom are communicated clearly with other governments. We have those conversations not only with the government of India, but across the world. We think these are very important principles and, as I said, they are essential elements for robust democracies."David Ruteley, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) junior minister
Moreover, Rutley added that the deep relationship between India and the UK is guided by a "comprehensive strategic partnership and the 2030 road map for India-UK future relations," which ", allows us (UK) to discuss a wide range of issues in a constructive manner with the government of India."
Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman, a vocal supporter of the Indian government, asked the minister to confirm if the I-T authorities in India have been investigating the BBC for seven years.
Questioning Rutley, Conservative MP Bob Blackman, who has remained a vocal suppoter of the Indian government, asked him to confirm if the I-T department in India have a 7-year-long ongoing investigaton into the BBC.
However, the minister declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.