Why some Indians want to 'Ban BBC'

Indian students hold a demonstration in Hyderabad on 3 January 2013 against the gang rape and murder of a student in Delhi Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The documentary 'India's Daughter' is about the brutal gang rape and murder of a student in Delhi

The BBC is being targeted by angry social media users in India after a documentary featuring an interview with a rapist on death row.

The BBC Storyville film 'India's Daughter' focuses on the brutal gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi, an incident which reverberated around the world and led to widespread protests about the safety of women in India. A court in Delhi has blocked the broadcast of the film in India, and Indian home minister Rajnath Singh has promised an investigation into whether "norms have been violated" for the filming. Just like on mainstream media, the debate on social media is focused on an interview with one of the four rapists sentenced to death for the crime. In the interview, he expressed no remorse and blamed the victim for fighting back.

On Twitter and Facebook, those opposing the documentary has been tweeting #banBBC - the hashtag has been mentioned more than 13,000 times in the last 24 hours. A few others have been using the hashtags #boycottbbc, #banbbcasap and #banbbcinIndia.

"Does rape happen only in India? It's an attempt to malign India on a global platform. We must stop it," said a tweet which was shared almost 200 times. "The BBC is doing what western media does best - glorifying and making a celebrity out of a psycho rapist," remarked another user, while another tweet said, "Britishers have left India six decades ago, but their political legacy still rule this country?"

Anshul Saxena, who has posted an open letter using the tag #banBBC, says he is hurt by the BBC's decision to air the documentary. "This kind of journalism only spreads a wrong anti-social message towards women. A criminal is a criminal; one cannot learn from him," he told BBC Trending.

Image copyright Delhi Police
Image caption An interview with Mukesh Singh (second from right) has divided opinion online

Prominent activist Kavita Krishnan wrote on Facebook: "I am concerned at the sheer confidence with which a single film, made by someone with scant familiarity with the daily decisions, dilemmas and struggles of India's activists, can claim to set the agenda for change in India... Already, the film has sent a message that due legal process can be given short shrift and junked, for the noble agenda of exposing a 'rapist's mind' to the world".

While much of the anger has been directed at the BBC's social media accounts, not all the tweets using the #banBBC tag have been against the broadcaster. "Fact: A critical documentary can't hurt India's "image" remotely as much as a knee-jerk government ban on it can," tweeted a columnist, while another post said: "India is suffering from the ostrich syndrome. Head in the sand and pretend no one can see it. That no-one is raping women in India".

The 'banBBC' tag was not the most popular to emerge from this controversy. There was also #NirbhayaInsulted (The victim was called "Nirbhaya," or "the fearless one" by the media) and #DontRapeAgain. The two tags were used more than 51,000 and 24,000 times respectively and have also been widely used by Indian news channels Times Now TV and Zee News.

The reactions to the documentary have not been restricted to Facebook and Twitter. Although the BBC has only broadcast the documentary in the UK, versions of it uploaded by YouTube users have been widely shared in India. YouTube said in a statement that it had complied with a request to take down a page hosting the documentary, but users quickly posted other links to versions of the film.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The rape led to widespread protests and candlelight vigils across the country

Petitions have also been posted on website Change.org, asking the government to reverse the ban. On Reddit, the debate has led to a robust discussion about the ban and how to solve the problem of rape.

There's been plenty of support for the documentary online too. One of Bangalore's most prominent Twitter voices is PR professional Tinu Cherian Abraham who has watched the documentary. He says the controversy is unfair and that those angry have not watched the film yet. "It doesn't justify rape or #NirbhayaInsulted. The more we deny that it is a systemic issue, the less we can solve this problem. We must understand that the victim's parents themselves were interviewed in India's Daughter".

The BBC meanwhile has defended its decision to air the "harrowing documentary, made with the full support and co-operation of the victim's parents".

"The film handles the issue responsibly and we are confident the programme fully complies with our editorial guidelines," it said in a press release.

Reporting by Samiha Nettikkara

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