The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has urged the Ministry of External Affairs to revoke the visas of BBC’s South Asia correspondent Justin Rowlatt and his crew, and prevent “their further entry into India, for a period not less than five years.”
An office memorandum issued by Vaibhav C. Mathur, Assistant Inspector-General of Forest, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), on February 27, 2017 also advised the wildlife wing of the Ministry to “disallow filming permission to the BBC in any protected areas of the country for a period of five years.” Despite attempts to contact the international broadcaster, no reaction from the BBC could be obtained.
The move came in the wake of Mr. Rowlatt’s documentary, “One World: Killing for Conservation”, which explored the anti-poaching strategy adopted by the guards of the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve (KTR) in Assam while protecting the one-horned Indian Rhino.
The documentary among other things referred to “dark secrets” of conservation at KTR.
The documentary said the forest guards had been given powers “to shoot and kill” poachers. It also stated that more people were killed by guards than rhinos by poachers at the tiger reserve.
The NTCA, in its memorandum, alleged that the violations by the journalist involved “filming after sunset,” dishonouring the undertaking provided along with “deviating from the original synopsis submitted to MEA and its authority.”
“Not screening the documentary before a committee of the MoEF&CC which would have ensured that policies of the Government vis-à-vis wildlife conservation are not projected in a distorted manner,” was listed among the violations by the memorandum.
The BBC has maintained that it was not bound to show the film to authorities, and would have done so if any of the officials had requested it to do so.
Accusing the journalist and the agency of “committing a complete breach of trust by submitting a false synopsis” it stated that this was done with the aim of “misleading the Government of India officials into giving filming permission and producing the documentary, which shows India’s conservation efforts in poor light, contrary to the synopsis submitted.”
On February 13, the NTCA had asked that “producer Mr. Justin Rowlatt be blacklisted and the BBC be given a warning to adhere to clauses provided in the clearances/approvals of the Government of India.” This earlier memorandum described the documentary as “grossly erroneous reporting”. Along with other details, this communication sent earlier this month, also cited the synopsis submitted by the BBC.
“Story on challenges and expertise of India’s conservation drive. We would like to report on and feature what we consider the most exciting aspect of conservation in India — the elite rangers of Kaziranga as they go on night patrol and show our viewers the efforts being taken to protect wildlife in India,” the synopsis read. (The Hindu)