There is growing pressure from the British Indian diaspora and around the world for an independent investigation into the controversial BBC documentary series on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A new Change.Org petition demanding a probe into the “serious breach” by the BBC in its duties as a public broadcaster over ‘India: The Modi Question’ attracted thousands of signatures within hours of going live over the weekend. ‘Call for an Independent Investigation into the BBC over Modi documentary’ strongly condemns the BBC for failing to meet the “highest standards of editorial impartiality” by airing a piece of “sinister propaganda journalism that deliberately misinforms its viewers”.
It reads: “We strongly condemn the BBC for failing to meet the highest standards of editorial impartiality in its two-part documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’.
“We call upon the BBC Board to conduct an independent investigation into this serious breach of its duties as a public service broadcaster and publish the findings in full.”
The petition also urges the UK’s independent media watchdog – the Office of Communications (OFCOM) – to hold the BBC to account for what it calls “repeated failures to secure content standards which command the trust of license-fee paying audiences” and to discuss necessary corrections and clarifications with the broadcaster.
Under the rationale behind the petition, the organisers brand the documentary as an “example of agenda driven reporting and institutional bias that now characterises this once globally respected organisation”.
It notes: “The timing for airing, some 21 years later, a so-called investigative report that has nothing new in it, but only shoehorns old allegations to fit the producers clearly predetermined conclusions in itself speaks volumes.
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“Inexplicably, it comes at a time when India’s Supreme Court has, after a lengthy investigation and due process, completely absolved Prime Minister Modi from the very same allegations of complicity in the 2002 riots that the BBC now seeks to rake up after more than two decades,” it reads.
Many of the signatories also express similar sentiments, calling it “complete propaganda” and condemning the BBC for carrying out a “malicious agenda”.
It comes as the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) wrote to Deborah Turness, CEO of BBC News, last week to complain against the broadcaster’s “anti-Hindu bias” in the airing of the documentary series, which concludes this week.
The Indian government has condemned the documentary as a "propaganda piece with bias" and reflective of a “colonial mindset” when questioned about it during a media briefing in New Delhi.
"The documentary is a reflection on the agency that has made it; it's a propaganda piece, there is bias and a continuing colonial mindset. Can't dignify such a film," Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters.
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The BBC has defended the series as “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards”.
*Info: Change.Org Petition