British MP slams BBC's Narendra Modi coverage

Written by PTI | London | Updated: May 31 2014, 23:50pm hrs
Britain's senior Indian-origin Minister, Priti Patel, has made an official complaint to the BBC over its seemingly one-sided coverage of India's new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

In a letter addressed to BBC Director General Lord Tony Hall dated May 19, Priti Patel, who has been appointed as an Indian Diaspora Champion by British Prime Minister David Cameron has said she had received a number of complaints from the Indian community based in the UK in reference to the BBC's 'Newsnight' programme aired on May 16 as part of the results coverage of India's general election.

"Many in the British Indian community, particularly those of Gujarati origin, were offended by the reporting about Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi," her letter reads.

The Conservative Party MP objected to the programme's presenter, Yalda Hakim, referring to Modi as a "controversial figure".

"Modi's political opponents have portrayed him as being 'controversial'. So by using this reference, the BBC, who should be impartial, is giving acceptance to the political position of Modi's opponents rather than reporting objectively," her letter states.

"The term 'controversial' could be used to describe a large number of politicians, which is why many people in Britain's Indian community believe its use purely in relation to Modi in the news item was unbalanced," it adds.

Patel also highlighted Hakim's references to Modi as having "blood on his hands" and that he was "India's most divisive politician".

The chair of the UK's All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group feels the 'Newsnight' programme focused on Modi's alleged involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots without going into the complete details with its guest speaker India-born artist Anish Kapoor describing Modi as a "mass murderer" on the show.

"Although the presenter asked him what he meant by mass murderer, she did not challenge him to provide evidence to support his claim.

"Claiming someone who is a democratically elected politician is a 'mass murderer' is an extremely serious allegation and unless such a claim is substantiated with meaningful evidence, the BBC should not be broadcasting this slur," she wrote, further expressing shock at the Indian general election being described as "supposedly democratic".