The income tax department is yet to issue a statement.
Income tax officials have ended their survey at the BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai, according to the British broadcaster. The offices were searched over three days with the government suggesting that the move was linked to an alleged violation of transfer pricing rules and diversion of profits.
The search came weeks after the government banned a two-part BBC documentary tracing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise following the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“The Income Tax Authorities have left our offices in Delhi and Mumbai. We will continue to cooperate with the authorities and hope matters are resolved as soon as possible. We are supporting staff – some of whom have faced lengthy questioning or been required to stay overnight – and their welfare is our priority. Our output is back to normal and we remain committed to serving our audiences in India and beyond,” BBC’s press team tweeted on Thursday.
“The BBC is a trusted, independent media organisation and we stand by our colleagues and journalists who will continue to report without fear or favour.”
BBC India earlier asked its staff not to delete any file from their digital devices until the “survey” is complete, a source earlier told Newslaundry. “If we delete anything from our devices, it might give the authorities a handle to unnecessarily harass us. To prevent this, the message was conveyed by BBC to its staff,” a source at the Delhi office had said.
Journalists’ phones or their data copies were not taken away, the source confirmed. “Only the accounts section’s digital data has been copied.”
The tax team stayed overnight on the first two days and slept on mattresses brought from outside. I-T officials also took a little break, stepping out of the office for a cup of tea and snacks on Wednesday afternoon, the source said. They have been ordering food online for lunch and dinner.
While the income tax department is yet to issue a statement on the survey, a large section of the foreign media has pointed to “signs” of “retaliatory action” and “baseless” claims by pro-government media ahead of the search. Several reports mentioned eroding press freedoms, crackdown on dissent and the new “evidence” in the controversial BBC documentary.
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