After the Indian government ordered YouTube to take down a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots, the United States State Department said that it supports the importance of free press around the world, adding that it is high time to highlight the importance of democratic principles and make it a point in India as well.
Who made the statement?: US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, during a regular briefing on Wednesday, 25 January, underlined Washington’s support for a free press in light of the ban on the BBC documentary in India.
What did Price say?: Responding to a query from the press, Price said:
We support the importance of a free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles, such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, as human rights that contribute to the strengthening of our democracies."
Addressing a press briefing on Monday, Price said that there are several elements that bolster the US’ global 1, which include political, economic and deep people-to-people ties.
"I'm not familiar with the documentary you're referring to. I am very familiar with the shared values that enact the United States and India as two thriving, vibrant democracies. When we have concerns about actions that are taken in India, we've voiced those we've had an occasion to do that," he said.
Other statements of support?: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had also said that he disagreed “with the characterisation” of his Indian counterpart in the BBC documentary.
Sunak made the remarks while responding to Labour MP Imran Hussain during the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) session in the House of Commons last week.
What the controversy is all about?: The documentary is about PM Modi and his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. It was not made available by BBC. However, the it was available on YouTube. Many people had accessed the documentary elsewhere and shared these links on their social media handles. All such posts that contained links to the documentary, have been blocked.
What has India said?:
Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting said that tweets sharing links to the documentary, have been "blocked under India’s sovereign laws and rules".
He said that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos of the first episode of BBC's "hateful propaganda". Orders were also issued to Twitter for blocking over 50 tweets with links to these videos.
An official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday called the documentary a "propaganda piece" that reflects the “agencies and individuals” who carry a “colonial mindset."