The Indian government has ordered YouTube and Twitter to remove videos and tweets about a TBEN documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued instructions “for the blocking of multiple YouTube videos” and linked “more than 50 tweets” to the videos of the first episode of the TBEN documentary, said Kanchan Gupta, an adviser to the Ministry Saturday.
The ministry issued the instructions under the IT Rules, 2021, which empowers the ministry to remove posts which it believes undermine India’s sovereignty and integrity, and which “may adversely affect India’s friendly relations with foreign countries, as well as public order within the country,” Gupta said. Both YouTube and Twitter complied with the leads, he said.
Gupta called the TBEN documentary a “hateful propaganda.” Multiple ministries, including MEA, MHA and MIB, investigated the TBEN’s “malicious documentary” and found it “insults the authority and credibility of the Supreme Court of India, divides various Indian communities and makes baseless accusations,” he wrote. in a Twitter thread.
The TBEN has not broadcast the documentary in India.
The TBEN aired the first episode of its two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question” on January 17. The series is about the 2002 municipal riots in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where Modi was the prime minister at the time. According to official figures, nearly 800 Muslims and more than 250 Hindus died in the riots.
Violence erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire.
A special investigative team appointed by India’s top court a decade later said Modi had taken steps to bring the riots under control. Another petition challenging Modi’s exemption was rejected last year.
According to the TBEN series, Modi’s administration is “haunted by persistent allegations about his government’s attitude towards India’s Muslim population,” according to the description on the website.
“This series explores the truth behind these allegations and explores Modi’s backstory to explore other questions about his politics when it comes to India’s largest religious minority.”
Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said this week that the documentary is a “propaganda piece designed to promote a particular discredited narrative. The bias, lack of objectivity and, quite frankly, a persistent colonial mindset are evident.”
“In any case, this film or documentary is a reflection of the agency and the individuals who are re-enacting this story. It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it and quite frankly we don’t want to be worthy of such efforts.”
TBEN said in a statement that the documentary explores tensions between India’s Hindi majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of Indian Prime Minister Modi in relation to those tensions.
“The documentary has been thoroughly researched to the highest editorial standards. A wide range of voices, witnesses and experts have been approached, and we have presented a range of opinions, including reactions from people in the BJP [India’s ruling party]. We offered the Indian government the right to comment on the issues raised in the series, but it declined to comment,” a TBEN spokesperson said.
This is not the first time that a documentary about Modi has sparked discussion. Disney-owned Hotstar, India’s largest on-demand video streaming service with more than 300 million users, blocked an episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” that was critical of Modi. An uncensored version of that episode aired on YouTube in India.