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Indian tax inspectors leave BBC offices after nearly 60 hours of questioning

A Border Police officer stands guard outside the office building where Indian tax authorities raided BBC's office in New Delhi.
Sajjad Hussain
/
AFP via Getty Images
A Border Police officer stands guard outside the office building where Indian tax authorities raided BBC's office in New Delhi.

Updated February 16, 2023 at 1:41 PM ET

MUMBAI — Indian tax inspectors left BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai late Thursday, after nearly 60 hours questioning staff, searching their devices and copying files.

Some staff "faced lengthy questioning" and had been "required to stay overnight," the British broadcaster tweeted at 10:40 p.m. local time Thursday. "Their welfare is our priority."

The raids began Tuesday, weeks after the BBC aired a documentary critical of India's prime minister.

Around 10 BBC employees had been sleeping in their Delhi office since then. Some of the tax agents stayed overnight too. They searched the laptops and phones of some journalists as well as administrative staff.

Indian officials call this a tax "survey." But press freedom advocates say it may have more to do with a recent BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in anti-Muslim riots. His government banned it from being screened or shared online in India.

While rights groups have criticized these raids, the governments of the U.S., France and the U.K. have not. They've been celebrating a big deal Modi presided over, in which Air India is buying airplanes made by U.S., French and British companies.

The BBC said late Thursday that it "will continue to cooperate with the authorities" in India, and that its journalists "will continue to report without fear or favour."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

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