YouTube, Twitter Blocking BBC Documentary About Indian Prime Minister

  • YouTube and Twitter blocked links to a BBC documentary about Indian PM Narendra Modi in India.
  • The documentary investigates Modi’s role within the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed around 1,000 people.
  • An advisor to the Indian government called the documentary “hostile propaganda” on Twitter.

Links and videos of a BBC documentary about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are being blocked on YouTube and Twitter in India.

The 2-part documentary, “India: The Modi Query,” investigates claims about Modi’s involvement within the 2002 riots in Gujarat where he was serving as chief minister on the time. Over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed throughout the violence that was prompted by the murder of a bunch of 59 Hindu pilgrims.

Kanchan Gupta, a senior adviser to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, tweeted on Saturday that the office “issued directions for blocking multiple” YouTube videos showing the primary episode of the documentary. The ministry also ordered Twitter to dam “over 50 tweets with links to those YT videos,” he said.

He tweeted that the ministry is using “emergency powers under the IT Rules,” introduced by Modi in 2021, and that YouTube and Twitter have complied in India.

Modi is an element of the BJP, or Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been India’s ruling political party since 2014 when Modi took office. He has denied contributing to the violence depicted within the documentary.  

Gupta criticized the documentary on Twitter, calling it “hostile propaganda,” and “anti-India garbage.” He accused the BBC of getting a “colonial mindset,” and said the documentary was “undermining the sovereignty and integrity of India.”

A YouTube spokesperson told Insider in a press release that, “The video in query has been blocked from appearing by the BBC because of a copyright claim.” 

A spokesperson for the BBC said it “has not asked Twitter to remove any content regarding the documentary. As is our standard practice, we issue Takedown Notices to web sites and other file sharing platforms where the content infringes the BBC’s copyright.” The documentary has been broadcast only within the UK on the BBC’s video on-demand service. 

The spokesperson said the documentary “examines the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of India’s PM Narendra Modi in relation to those tensions.”

“The documentary was rigorously researched in keeping with highest editorial standards. A wide selection of voices, witnesses and experts were approached, and we’ve got featured a variety of opinions – this includes responses from people within the BJP. We offered the Indian Government a right to answer to the matters raised within the series – it declined to reply,” the spokesperson said.

Twitter didn’t immediately responded to Insider’s request for comment.

Two Parliamentary members of the opposition party All India Trinamool Congress, shared links to the documentary. Derek O’Brien’s tweet was removed; Mahua Moitra shared an archived link to the video nevertheless it longer works. In a tweet with the link she said, “Sorry, Have not been elected to represent world’s largest democracy to simply accept censorship.”

Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded to a tweet asking him about The Intercept’s article on removing the documentary and said it was the primary he’d heard of it.

“It just isn’t possible for me to repair every aspect of Twitter worldwide overnight, while still running Tesla and SpaceX, amongst other things,” Musk tweeted.

Musk has called himself  “a free speech absolutist,” but clarified in one other tweet in April that, “By ‘free speech’, I simply mean that which matches the law. I’m against censorship that goes far beyond the law.”

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