Internet Archive takes down upload of BBC’s Modi documentary

A widely circulated upload on the website of the BBC’s documentary on the Prime Minister has been taken down.

January 23, 2023 11:53 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:22 am IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File | Photo Credit: ANI

The Internet Archive, a US-based repository of webpage archives and media uploads by users around the world, has taken down a widely circulated upload of the first episode of the BBC’s The Modi Question, the documentary that was ordered off of YouTube and Twitter by the Union government, The Hindu has found. “This item is no longer available,” a message on the upload reads. “Items may be taken down for various reasons, including by decision of the uploader or due to a violation of our Terms of Use.”

The Internet Archive did not respond to a query by The Hindu sent Sunday on how it would react if it were asked to take the documentary down. The site has emerged as one of the main sources where the documentary has been shared for viewing by Indian users, even as the BBC acts to restrict it on copyright grounds on YouTube; the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting separately ordered the video-sharing site as well as Twitter to take down uploads of and links to the documentary.

It is unclear whether the takedown of this particular upload was a result of a request by the Indian government or by the BBC. The British state-owned broadcaster has not authorised the two-part documentary series’ broadcast in India, whether on its own iPlayer streaming service, or on YouTube, where uploads by individual users went viral before being taken down. Other uploads of the episode continue to be available, although it is unclear if they will remain on the site.

The documentary revealed that a U.K. government committee found Prime Minister Narendra Modi culpable for the 2002 Gujarat riots violence, and that the violence occurred “under the protection of the state government”. The Ministries of Information & Broadcasting and External Affairs have both condemned the documentary, with Kanchan Gupta, a Senior Advisor at the latter, saying that it was “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage”.

The Internet Archive was briefly blocked in India in 2017, when the producers of the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal included a link to the site in a so-called John Doe petition at the Madras High Court to temporarily block several filesharing sites that they worried might distribute illegal copies of the film during its theatrical run.

A BBC Spokesperson said: “The BBC is committed to highlighting important issues from around the world. The documentary series examines the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of India’s PM Narendra Modi in relation to those tensions. This has been the source of considerable reporting and interest both in India and across the world in recent years.

“The documentary was rigorously researched according to highest editorial standards. A wide range of voices, witnesses and experts were approached, and we have featured a range of opinions – this includes responses from people in the BJP. We offered the Indian Government a right to reply to the matters raised in the series – it declined to respond.”

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