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US State Spokesperson Stresses On Press Freedom Over Banned BBC Documentary In India

"When we have concerns about actions that are taken in India, we've voiced those we've had an occasion to do that," US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

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Following the Indian government's ban on BBC's two-part documentary "India: The Modi Question", the US State Department on Monday described the ban as a batter of press freedom adding that it is crucial to underline democratic values like freedom of expression around the world as well as in India.

During an interaction with the press, US State Department spokesperson, Ned Price on Monday said that while the US is unfamiliar with the documentary series, it shares the familiar 'democratic values' which connect the US capital Washington with New Delhi. He was quoted per several media reports as he told reporters that Washington shares an “exceptionally deep partnership” with New Delhi based on values that are common to both the US and Indian democracies.

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"I'm not familiar with the documentary you're referring to. I am very familiar with the shared values that enact the United States and India as two thriving, vibrant democracies. When we have concerns about actions that are taken in India, we've voiced those we've had an occasion to do that," Price said.

Highlighting that Washington stands in support of a free press around the world, Price responded to a media query on Wednesday by saying, "We support the importance of a free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles, such as freedom of expression, and freedom of religion or belief, as human rights that contribute to the strengthening of our democracies. This is a point we make in our relationships around the world. It's certainly a point we've made in India as well."

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UK National broadcaster BBC aired the first episode of the two-part docu-series last week that has stirred the politics of the country. The documentary claims to be an investigation into the 2002 Gujarat riots which caused 1044 deaths, 2500 injuries, and 223 people were reported missing. 790 were Muslims and 254 Hindus were among the death toll. However, as per the Concerned Citizens Tribunal Report, the killings are estimated at 1926. Other sources estimated death tolls higher than 2000. The riots occurred at a time when the now India Prime Minister Narendra Modi served as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

While the first episode was categorized by the BBC as "a look at the tensions between Indian PM Narendra Modi and India’s Muslim minority, investigating claims about his role in 2002 riots that left over a thousand dead”, the second part which aired on Tuesday is pegged as a “look at the troubled relationship between Indian PM Narendra Modi’s government and India’s Muslim minority following his re-election in 2019”.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has termed the documentary as entirely biased in response to the BBC series which was banned by the government on selective platforms on the grounds of 'perpetuating false propaganda', a term repeatedly used by PM Modi in an excerpt from the first episode. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi during a weekly press briefing in New Delhi said, "We think this is a propaganda piece. This has no objectivity. This is biased. Do note that this hasn't been screened in India. We don't want to answer more on this so that this doesn't get much dignity." He further questioned the purpose and agenda behind the BBC documentary.

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The ban has been vehemently criticised by opposition leaders and parties. Student organisations have also been organising and demanding to screen the documentary on varsity campuses. TMC MP Maahua Moitra January 24 shared the links to the documentary on her social media account tweeting, "Sorry, haven’t been elected to represent world’s largest democracy to accept censorship, Here’s the link. Watch it while you can”.

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