US Reacts to Income Tax Surveys at BBC’s Delhi, Mumbai Offices, Says ‘We Support…’

New Delhi: The United States on Tuesday (February 14, 2023) reacted to the survey operations conducted by the Indian Tax Department at the BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai and said that it “supports the importance of free press around the world”. The Income Tax department on Tuesday conducted survey operations for over ten hours at the BBC’s offices in Delhi, Mumbai, and two other linked locations as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion. The action came weeks after the British broadcaster aired a two-part documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, on the prime minister and the 2002 Gujarat riots.

“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,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

“We support the importance of a 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 added.

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These universal rights are the bedrock of democracies around the world, the US official said.

When asked if this action went against some of the spirit or value of democracy, Price said, “I couldn’t say. We’re aware of the facts of these searches, but I’m just not in a position to offer a judgment.”

Fully cooperating with Income Tax authorities: BBC 

The BBC said that it is fully cooperating with Income Tax authorities.

“The Income Tax authorities are currently at the offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and we are fully cooperating. We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible,” the press office of the BBC said on Twitter.

Giving an update on the situation, the British broadcaster at 10:26 PM (IST) said that the “Income Tax Authorities remain at the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai. Many staff have now left the building but some have been asked to remain and are continuing to cooperate with the ongoing enquiries.”

“We are supporting our staff during this time and continue to hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible. Our output and journalism continues as normal and we are committed to serving our audiences in India,” the BBC said.

As per reports, the action began at 11 am on Tuesday when Income Tax officials reached the BBC offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Gurugram and one another premises and the operation continued till late evening.

BBC staffers were reportedly asked to keep their phones at a particular spot inside the premises and cooperate. Besides, some computers were seized and the mobile phones of some staff members were also cloned.

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