‘Unnerved by BBC documentary on Modi’s role in Gujarat massacre, India blocks series

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Frustrated by the release of BBC documentary on the role of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 massacre of Gujarat Muslims, New Delhi has blocked the BBC series with writers and columnists calling the BJP government’s move “venomous”.

Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ordered YouTube to block the first episode of the BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question. The ministry also directed the social media platform Twitter to block more than 50 tweets that have links to the documentary on YouTube.

New Delhi invoked its emergency powers under IT Rules, 2021, to block videos and tweets sharing the first of the two episodes of the documentary, which focuses on the response of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the then Gujarat chief minister, towards the Gujarat Muslim massacre in 2002, over these two platforms.

Writers and columnists condemned the ban on the BBC documentary in India.

In an interaction with a media outlet on the sidelines of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Columnist and senior journalist P Sainath condemned the Indian government’s action and said, “[The BJP move to block the documentary] is so petty, it is so venomous … They are willing to wipe out anything that criticises Mr Modi, his government or his parties.”

“A large number of Indians will not be able to access it now,” Sainath said. “But look at the sources in that documentary. Former foreign secretary [Jack Straw] and people at the ministerial levels of the UK government are speaking … And you [the government] just obliterate it?” added Sainath, Founder-Editor, People’s Archive of Rural India.

On Saturday, Opposition leaders had also criticised the Modi government’s orders to YouTube and Twitter over the BBC documentary calling it “censorship”.
Sainath also talked about the reactions of the larger Indian media towards the move. “It is not just censorship. In the media, we are seeing the large-scale adoption of self-censorship. They don’t have to be told not to do something, they just don’t allow stories to appear. That is the great tragedy,” said the senior journalist.

Calling the present state of the Indian media as being “at its lowest in the last 200 years,” he said, “[out of them], about 160 years were quite glorious [for the Indian media]. It had much to be proud of.

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