WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Tuesday (local time) overlooked a Pakistani journalist’s question on the survey at BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai by Indian tax authorities.
When ARY’s reporter in Washington Jahanzaib Ali asked about “any thoughts and concern” over the survey, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “We are aware of the search of BBC offices in Delhi by Indian tax authorities.”
The reporter further questioned to get the US State Department’s reaction but Ned Price refused to wade into the controversy or comment on the matter.
Notably, Pakistani journalist Ali, cited the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots and said he “regretted” that no US official had criticized it, while the US State Department highlighted the close relationship between the two countries, especially over shared values.
“What I will say broadly is that there are a number of elements that undergird the global strategic partnership that we have with our Indian partners. There are close political ties, there are economic ties, and there are exceptionally deep people-to-people ties between the United States and India. But one of those additional elements are the values that we share, the values that are common to American democracy and to Indian democracy,” Price said during regular press briefing.
“I am very familiar with the shared values that connect the United States and India as two thriving, vibrant democracies. When we have concerns about actions that are taken in India, we have voiced those. We have had an occasion to do that. But we want first and foremost to reinforce those values that are at the heart of our relationship,” he added.
Price stated that India is the world’s largest democracy, and also a vibrant one. “We look to everything that ties us together, and we look to reinforce all of those elements that tie us together.”
However, Price laid stress on the importance of a free press around the world and asked the reporter to refer 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 the universal context text as well. 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. These universal rights are the bedrock of democracies around the world,” said Price.
Earlier, Income tax officials arrived at BBC offices located at the national capital’s KG Marg for the survey. The British broadcaster’s office at Kalina Santacruz in Mumbai was also surveyed, sources said adding that the survey was limited to the business premises of BBC only.
According to reports, a team of IT officials arrived at the BBC Studios office in Kalina Santacruz around 11.30 am today and a survey has been going on since then. There is no IT activity at the BBC News office at Linking road Bandra West.
It is learned that the tax officials are conducting verification of certain account documents in the finance department of the BBC offices.
During the investigation, the mobile phones of all the employees present in the BBC office have been taken away by the Income Tax team. The data of the computer kept in the accounts and finance department was also scanned.
According to sources, officials said the devices will be returned to their owners after taking a backup.
The searches come weeks after the BBC released a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi – ‘India: The Modi Question,” which caused controversy on January 21, the Centre had issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial BBC documentary on PM Modi.
The Supreme Court had on February 3 directed the central government to produce original records relating to its decision to block the BBC documentary. (ANI)