In January, the BBC broadcast a two-part series exploring the role of Narendra Modi in fomenting India’s anti-Muslim riots of 2002, says Kenan Malin in The Observer. The response was swift. Officials dismissed the programme’s criticism of the man who’s now prime minister as “anti-India garbage” reflecting the BBC’s “colonial mindset”. The government invoked emergency laws to ban the documentary from being broadcast; when students at one Delhi university tried to screen it, authorities cut off their electricity. A few weeks later, the BBC’s Indian offices were raided, supposedly to investigate “tax evasion”. Most locals are, unsurprisingly, “deeply cynical” of this explanation. They see it as an escalation of the PM’s “relentless campaign” to silence criticism of his regime.
Modi’s government frequently uses charges of “sedition” to intimidate reporters. The editor of a regional news website was jailed on those grounds in 2020 for criticising the government’s pandemic response; another journalist was later locked up for writing that cow dung doesn’t cure Covid. A TV channel, Media One, was blocked for 48 hours for covering mob attacks on Muslims “in a way that was critical towards Delhi police”. The sad thing is that because of India’s geopolitical importance as a “counterweight to China” in Asia, Western leaders are reluctant to speak up about this repression. Instead, they’re turning a blind eye to Modi’s “slow strangulation of a free and independent media”.