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BBC claims its journalists ‘not allowed to work’ for hours during income tax survey

The British Broadcasting Corporation or BBC has alleged that during the recent “survey” in its Delhi and Mumbai offices, Income Tax Department officials stopped its journalists from working for many hours, and even “misbehaved” with some of them.

The article published on the BBC Hindi website contradicted the Central Board of Direct Taxes’s (CBDT) statement which, without identifying the company, said, “…the survey operation was conducted in a manner so as to facilitate continued regular media/channel activity.”

“BBC journalists were not allowed to work for many hours. The Income Tax Department employees and policemen also misbehaved with several journalists,” the article read.

“Journalists’ computers were searched, their phones were intercepted and information was sought from them about their working methods. Along with this, the journalists working in the Delhi office were stopped from writing anything about this survey,” it added.

“Even when people were allowed to work after senior editors persistently asked the officials to let work continue, Hindi and English journalists were stopped from working. Journalists of both these languages were allowed to work only when they reached close to the broadcast time,” the article further claims.

On Friday, the CBDT said the income and profits shown by various BBC group entities are “not commensurate” with the scale of their operations in India and tax has not been paid on certain remittances by its foreign entities.

The taxmen’s three-day survey ended on Thursday against the British media organisation.

The CBDT said the survey was conducted on the business premises of group entities of a prominent international media company which is engaged in the business of development of content in English, Hindi and various other Indian languages, advertisement sales and market support services, etc.

Officials said the statement pertains to the BBC, news agency PTI reported.

The statement alleged various tax-linked irregularities against the London-headquartered company and accused it of using “dilatory tactics” during the course of the survey.

“The survey revealed that despite substantial consumption of content in various Indian languages (apart from English), the income/profits shown by various group entities (of BBC) is not commensurate with the scale of operations in India.”

“…the department gathered several evidences pertaining to the operation of the organisation which indicate that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group,” the CBDT said.

The BBC, after tax teams left their premises on Thursday, said they will “continue to cooperate with the authorities and hope matters are resolved as soon as possible”.

The survey prompted Opposition parties to denounce the I-T department action as they termed it “political vendetta”.

The BJP had accused the BBC of “venomous reporting”, while the Opposition had questioned the timing of the action that came weeks after the broadcaster aired a two-part documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots.

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