The Indian government has ordered YouTube and Twitter to take down videos and tweets about a BBC documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued the instructions “to block several YouTube videos” and “over 50 tweets” related to the videos from the first episode of the BBC documentary, Kanchan Gupta, an adviser to the ministry, said on Saturday.
The ministry issued the instructions under the IT Rules, 2021 which empowers the ministry to take down posts which it considers undermine India’s sovereignty and integrity, and have “potential to adversely affect India’s friendly relations with foreign countries as well as public order within country, Gupta said.Both YouTube and Twitter followed the instructions, he said.
Gupta called the BBC documentary “hateful propaganda”. Several ministries, including the MEA, MHA and MIB, investigated the BBC’s “malicious documentary” and found that it “cast doubt on the authority and credibility of the Supreme Court of India, sowed division among various Indian communities and made baseless allegations,” he wrote in a Twitter -thread.
The BBC has not broadcast the documentary in India.
The BBC aired the first episode of the two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question” on 17 January. The series deals with the 2002 communal riots in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where Modi was the chief minister at the time. Nearly 800 Muslims and over 250 Hindus died in the riots, according to official figures.
The violence erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire.
A special investigation team appointed by India’s Supreme Court a decade later said Modi had taken the steps to control the riots. Another petition questioning Modi’s exemption was dismissed last year.
The BBC series says Modi’s rule has been “marred by persistent allegations about the attitude of his government towards India’s Muslim population,” according to its website description.
“This series examines the truth behind these claims and examines Modi’s backstory to explore other questions about his policies when it comes to India’s largest religious minority.”
Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry, said this week that the documentary is a “propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias, the lack of objectivity, and frankly, a persistent colonial mindset, is blatantly visible.”
“If anything, this film or documentary is a reflection on the agency and individuals who are pushing this narrative again. It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it, and frankly, we don’t want to dignify such an effort .”
The BBC said in a statement that the documentary examines the tensions between India’s Hindi majority and Muslim minority and explores the policies of Indian Prime Minister Modi in relation to these tensions.
“The documentary was thoroughly researched according to the highest editorial standards. A wide range of voices, witnesses and experts were contacted and we have presented a range of opinions – this includes responses from people in the BJP [India’s ruling party]. We offered the Indian government the right to respond to the issues raised in the series – it refused to respond, a BBC spokesperson said.
This is not the first time a documentary about Modi has sparked debate. Disney-owned Hotstar, India’s largest on-demand video streaming service with more than 300 million users, blocked an episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” that was critical of Modi. An uncensored version of that episode aired on YouTube in India.