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CPJ terms India’s blocking of BBC documentary on Modi attack on free press

New York, January 24 (KMS): The New York-based media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has termed the Indian government’s order to social media platforms to block a BBC documentary about the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an attack on the free press.

The CPJ in a statement released on its website in response to Indian authorities’ order to restrict access to the BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question” on YouTube and Twitter, called for access to the documentary to be restored.

“The Indian government’s order to social media platforms to block a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an attack on the free press that flagrantly contradicts the country’s stated commitment to democratic ideals,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

“Authorities must immediately restore full and unrestricted access to the documentary and withdraw regulations under the Information Technology Act that imperil press freedom and freedom of expression online,” she said.

The CPJ statement said that on January 20, the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ordered YouTube and Twitter to take down links sharing the first episode of the two-part BBC documentary investigating Modi’s role in 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the Indian state of Gujarat. Clips of the documentary, which did not air in India, have been shared widely on social media, it said.

According to the Times of India, the CPJ said, the companies complied and removed about 50 tweets and an unspecified number of YouTube videos.

The statement said, the Indian Ministry issued its order under legislation, updated in 2021, that expanded government’s powers to censor online content, which CPJ criticized at that time. Authorities have also recently proposed legislation that would require intermediaries, including social media platforms, to remove news articles identified as “fake” or “false”, it added.

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