India: The Modi Question: CPJ urges govt to restore full, unrestricted access to BBC documentary

The Union government has come under severe scrutiny from the advocate of free voice and civil rights activists over its move to block the BBC documentary on 2002 Gujarat riots that reportedly questions the role of Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of the state.

The fresh criticism has come from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) which has called the ban move an “attack on free press” and urged the authorities to take back the ban decision.

Demanding the government to withdraw regulations under the IT Act that “imperil press freedom and freedom of expression online”, the organization asked the Modi government to restore full and unrestricted access to the documentary and

In a statement, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator Beh Lih Yi, said: “The Indian government’s order to social media platforms to block a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an attack on the free press that flagrantly contradicts the country’s stated commitment to democratic ideals.”

“Authorities must immediately restore full and unrestricted access to the documentary and withdraw regulations under the Information Technology Act that imperil press freedom and freedom of expression online,” the statement read.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Saturday ordered YouTube and Twitter to take down links sharing the first episode of the two-part BBC documentary, tilted ‘India: The Modi Question’.

The BBC’s two-part series, “India: The Modi Question” have looked at the details of the riots that occurred in Gujarat in 2002 while Modi was chief minister. After India slammed the move, the BBC defended its series. “The documentary was rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards,” a BBC spokesperson said in a statement.

Clips of the documentary, which did not air in India, have been shared widely on social media.

At least 50 tweets, including posts by opposition leaders, activists and journalists, carrying a link to the BBC documentary were censored by the government. The ministry cited Rule 16(3) of the IT Rules [PDF] and Section 69(A) of IT Act, 2000 to ask social media platforms for removal of the posts, according to The Wire. CPJ emailed Google, Twitter, and the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for comment, but did not receive any replies, it reported.

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