The BBC has been banned from filming in tiger reserves in India for five years as its documentary on the Kaziranga National Park “misrepresented” the immunity provided to forest staff as a “shoot-to-kill” policy, the Centre said on Tuesday.
Environment minister Anil Madhav Dave said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha that there were several “inconsistencies” between the “synopsis provided by the BBC producer and the final documentary released for airing”.
“The government is aware of a documentary released by the BBC in which they misrepresented the immunity provided to forest personnel under section 197 of CrPC as ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.
“The BBC has been disallowed from filming in tiger reserves for a period of five years. The permission granted before making the film included the condition for preview before its release. However, the documentary was not submitted to the authorities for a preview,” Dave said.
India’s tiger conservation agency recently asked the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to bar the BBC from filming in protected areas for five years, claiming a documentary produced by it “distorted” the government’s anti-poaching strategy.
It has also sought revocation of the visas of the journalist who produced the documentary and other crew for an identical period.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had earlier suggested “blacklisting” the BBC producer for “grossly erroneous” reporting, while issuing a show cause notice asking the broadcaster as to why permissions granted to it should not be revoked after the documentary termed the government’s anti -poaching policy at Kaziranga as one of “shoot to kill”.
Dave had in the past said the Assam government had taken a series of steps to curb poaching at the Kaziranga National Park, including empowering the forest staff to use firearms without prior sanction while providing them immunity from prosecution.
The NTCA, which functions under the environment ministry, in a memorandum had said that producer Justin Rowlatt and others committed a “breach of trust” by submitting “false and misleading synopsis” to obtain filming permissions and producing a documentary which shows India’s conservation efforts in “poor light”.
The BBC, whose South Asia Bureau made the documentary Killing For Conservation, however, recently said it has not received any notification of a ban by Indian authorities and that such a reaction to a report which was “balanced and impartial” would be “disappointing”.