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I&B Ministry blocks BBC documentary critical of PM Modi; Opposition slams ‘censorship’

Directions to block the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question” on YouTube and Twitter were reportedly issued by I&B Secretary Apurva Chandra using emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021

January 21, 2023 03:53 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 09:55 am IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued orders to block multiple YouTube videos of the first episode of the BBC documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, as well as more than 50 tweets linking to the videos. Opposition leaders have accused the government of imposing censorship through its orders.

Also read: Twitter deleted post on BBC documentary critical of PM Modi: Derek O’Brien

The directions were reportedly issued by I&B Secretary Apurva Chandra on January 20, using emergency powers under the Information Technology Rules, 2021. Both YouTube and Twitter have complied with the directions, said a source.

The documentary, produced by the United Kingdom’s public broadcaster, had earlier been termed a “propaganda piece” by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which added that it lacked objectivity and reflected a colonial mindset. “While it was not made available in India by the BBC, some YouTube channels had uploaded it to promote an anti-India agenda,” a government official said.

It is learnt that YouTube has also been instructed to block the video if it is uploaded on its platform again. Twitter has also been told to identify and block any tweets containing links to the video posted on other platforms.

‘Casting aspersions on SC’

Sources said that senior officials of multiple Ministries, including the MEA, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the I&B Ministry, earlier examined the documentary and found it to be “an attempt to cast aspersions on the authority and credibility of the Supreme Court of India, sow divisions among various Indian communities, and make unsubstantiated allegations regarding the actions of foreign governments in India.”

“The documentary was accordingly found to be undermining the sovereignty and integrity of India, and having the potential to adversely impact India’s friendly relations with foreign States, as also public order within the country,” said the official.

‘Censorship imposed’

Responding to the development, the Congress general secretary for communications Jairam Ramesh on Saturday tweeted: “PM and his drumbeaters assert that the new BBC documentary on him is slanderous. Censorship has been imposed. Then why did PM Vajpayee want his exit in 2002, only to be pressurised not to insist by the threat of resignation by Advani? Why did Vajpayee remind him of his rajdharma?”

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said his own tweet had been deleted. “Censorship... @Twitter@TwitterIndia has taken down my tweet of the #BBCDocumentary, it received lakhs of views. The 1 hr@BBC docu exposes how PM @narendramodi hates minorities,” he tweeted. He also posted a screenshot showing that his tweet had been withheld in India in response to a legal demand.

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