Dec 16 documentary row: Rajnath says will take action against BBC

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 11, 2015 15:07 IST

Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said the BBC should not have telecast the documentary based on the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape, India's Daughter, and the government will action against the broadcaster.

The government moved to block the film worldwide with Singh telling Parliament he was "stunned and deeply hurt" when he heard about the controversial interview of one of the accused.

"We had asked to not release the documentary, but BBC still released it, and we will investigate and the MHA will take action accordingly... The conditions have been breached so action will be taken accordingly. I won't comment any further on it," Singh was quoted as saying by NDTV.

The news channel also said that the home ministry has sent a copy of the court order prohibiting airing of the documentary to the BBC.

The 60-minute documentary includes a lengthy interview conducted in jail with convict Mukesh Singh. It also has interviews with the victim's parents, two defence lawyers ML Sharma and AP Singh, legal experts Leila Seth and Gopal Subramaniam, and relatives of the other convicts in the case that had triggered a nationwide outrage.

In portions of the documentary that appeared in the media and on YouTube on Tuesday, death row inmate Mukesh Singh, who was driving the bus when the crime took place, blames the 23-year-old victim for the brutal assault that ultimately killed her.

On Wednesday, the home minister had directed the BBC and the ministries of information and broadcasting, external affairs, and information technology to ensure Udwin's film was not broadcast or put on social platforms anywhere in the world, officials said.

The BBC aired the documentary by award-winning British filmmaker Leslee Udwin in the UK and other countries on Wednesday night. India's Daughter was originally scheduled to be aired on March 8, International Women's Day, in several countries, including India.

The BBC released a statement saying the "film handles the issue responsibly" and it is "confident the programme fully complies with our editorial guidelines".

"Given the intense level of interest in the Storyville film India’s Daughter, we have brought transmission forward to 10pm tonight, 4 March, on BBC Four to enable viewers to see this incredibly powerful documentary at the earliest opportunity," it said.

Replying to a letter from Rakesh Singh, joint secretary in the information and broadcasting ministry, BBC Television director Danny Cohen wrote on Wednesday that after 'lengthy and careful consideration', the BBC had decided to telecast the film.

"We appreciate your concern but we feel India's Daughter has a strong public interest in raising awareness of a global problem and the BBC is satisfied with the editorial standards of the film. We have also received assurances from the production company that they gained access through the proper channels in order to conduct what was an extensive and considered interview," Cohen wrote.

"We do not feel the film as currently edited could ever be construed as derogatory to women or an affront to their dignity. Indeed, it highlights the challenges women in India face today," he added.

"It should be noted, although the BBC is happy to take your views into consideration, we are not planning to transmit the film in any territory which lies under Indian legal jurisdiction," Cohen wrote.

"The remarks of the perpetrator are set among a number of other views, including those of the parents, ex-or present members of the judiciary, witnesses and personal testimonies."

Udwin left India on Wednesday after an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi "to deal with this unceremonious silencing of the film". Sources said the home ministry was planning legal action against.

"This was my gift to India and it was rejected even before it was released. I am deeply saddened I have to leave under these circumstances but I also have promotions lined up in New York and London. I would have wanted to stay on and fight till the end," she told HT.

Udwin said she was saddened by the ban but insisted to HT that she had all the required clearances from Tihar and the home ministry along with signed consent forms from the convicts she interviewed.

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