Amid documentary row, UK defends BBC’s independence
The UK government has defended that BBC as an “independent in its output” media outlet in the wake of widespread protests from the Indian diaspora over the controversial documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
PICTURE: AISA activists from Jadavpur University take part in the demonstration of the forbidden ones BBC documentary India: The Modi Question on Friday via PM Narendra Modi at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Photo: ANI photo
Speaking to reporters at Downing Street on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman echoed a statement made by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Parliament earlier this week, adding that the government was continuing to invest in its relationship with India.
“The BBC is independent in its production and we would like to stress that we continue to view India as an incredibly important international partner,” the spokesperson replied to a question about India’s condemnation of the documentary India: The Modi Question questioning the role of the then Prime Minister in the Godhra riots of 2002.
“We will invest heavily in our relationship with India over the coming decades and are confident that it will continue to grow,” the spokesman said.
It followed a similar response from Cleverly in the House of Commons on Tuesday, when he responded to a question from a Conservative Party colleague about the assurances the UK government was giving to India in the wake of coordinated diaspora protests against the BBC over the weekend.
“I recently had the opportunity to speak to Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami on this and a number of other issues,” the foreign minister told MPs.
“We recognize the impact this portrayal by the Indian government has had in India. I have made it clear that the BBC is independent in its findings, that the UK views India as an incredibly important international partner and that we will invest heavily in this relationship over the coming decades,” he said.
The minister was responding to a question from Tory MP Bob Blackman, leader of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Hindus, who described the documentary as “anti-India propaganda” and asked about the steps taken to ” to reassure our Commonwealth partner”. that this propaganda is not the policy of this government”.
Cleverly met Doraiswami during the India Global Forum’s UK-India Parliamentary Lunch last week and addressed the gathering of parliamentarians and business leaders on strengthening bilateral ties across the board.
“As for trade, we’re in the middle of negotiating what has all the hallmarks of a true bilateral trade relationship by global standards, because we have this wonderful bilateral relationship that I like to think of as unique,” he said at the time.