BBC served with legal notice for airing the documentary “India’s Daughter”

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A visibly annoyed Central government served the British Broadcasting Corporation with a legal notice after the channel failed to adhere to the government’s order restraining the channel from broadcasting the much maligned interview given by Mukhesh Singh, a December 16 gang rape convict, as a part of LesleeUdwin’s documentary, ‘India’s Daughter’. Further, the Central Government asked the video-sharing portal YouTube to take the documentary from its servers as the content of the documentary are “very sensitive.”

Even though the Central Government had cautioned all the channels against broadcasting the said documentary, the BBC had released and consequently broadcasted the documentary in London on Channel 4. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, seemingly upset while being questioned by the reporters over the ban on the documentary and the latest developments, said that the government will take necessary and appropriate action in light of BBC’s transgression in releasing the documentary despite an express ban against it. He further observed that the BBC argued that it is an independent organisation and as such, free to decide the nature of its content. Mr. Singh informed the media that he had spoken to the Information & Broadcasting Ministry and had also communicated his grievance to the Ministry of External Affairs.

However, the Government seems to have met with a little success and less embarrassment when it asked YouTube to bring down the video from its portal and prevent it from being uploaded, shared, downloaded or telecasted. YouTube was of the opinion that even though they firmly believe in the freedom of speech and regard it as a cornerstone of modern society, they are willing to comply with the laws of every individual country and accordingly filter any content found to be offensive or illegal as per the country’s laws/guidelines, once it is notified of the said transgression.

While, BBC aired the documentary with the controversial interview, it also assured the Indian government that it had no plans to air the documentary in India, as it is willing to comply with the government’s diktat. However, even as our Home Minister was asked as to who is to be blamed for the documentary being shot, he curtly replied that the present government is not at fault as the permission for shooting the impugned documentary was granted before the present government’s tenure.

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The Home Minister gave an elaborate statement on the present issue after being mobbed by the civil society and opposition alike. The statement noted all the provisions under which the permission had been given are under government’s scrutiny and will soon be removed so that such mistakes do not recur. He argued that if there is a case for violation, then there is also a liability which calls for appropriate action at an appropriate time.

Meanwhile, the Parliament is mired in an imbroglio between the ruling coalition and the opposition. While battle lines have been drawn in the two camps, the restraining order and the consequent stay by a local Delhi court has evoked ambiguous reactions from different politicians and outfits. On the one hand, the BJP and its right wing brigade are vociferous in condemning the documentary as well BBC’s audacity in broadcasting the documentary in London. On the other, the Congress is applauding the BBC, calling the ban abhorrent.

BJP MP MeenakshiLekhi while expressing her dismay at the state of affairs noted that what is evident in BBC’s intemperance and callous disregard of government guidelines is a baleful effort to “dent” India’s image.

Congress MP PriyaDutt on the other hand expressed her astonishment and shock at the ban, and noted while the documentary and reliving the events of the sad day may be excruciating for the victim’s parents and relatives, the documentary in question exposes the mentality of the perpetrators.

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by Siddhartha Singh.