BBC Served Legal Notice for Airing Rape Documentary (Report)

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The head of the Delhi prison where a rapist on death row was interviewed in 'India's Daughter' has sent a notice to the U.K. public broadcaster.

The BBC has been served a legal notice by Indian authorities for airing the documentary India's Daughter by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, according to reports Thursday. The film — which was banned by the government in India — recounts the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus in 2012, which sparked a national furor and massive street protests.

Co-produced by well-known Indian television journalist Dibang, the film includes an interview with one of the four imprisoned attackers — now on death row — Mukesh Singh, who said women are more responsible for rape than men. Clips of the interview — shown on news channels on Tuesday — sparked local and international outrage as well as a social media campaign to ban the film.

NDTV (New Delhi Television) reported that the director general of Delhi's Tihar Jail, where the rapist was interviewed, has now served a notice to the BBC for "violation of contract — including using the opportunity to interview a convict for commercial use, showing content that violates the dignity of women and airing the documentary without his approval."

Earlier on Thursday, India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters that the government "had asked to not release the documentary, but BBC still released it. We will investigate and the Ministry of Home Affairs will take action accordingly," adding that the BBC had breached conditions.

The BBC was due to air the documentary on Sunday, March 8, but moved it forward to Wednesday, citing the "intense level of interest." According to The Guardian Thursday, the documentary had an audience of almost 300,000 on BBC Four.

In a letter to Rakesh Singh, joint secretary of India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, sent before the broadcast, BBC TV chief Danny Cohen said the broadcaster thought the film was "an important account of an event that galvanized Indian opinion to ensure such tragedies are not repeated," adding that the BBC was not planning to transmit it in any territory lying under Indian legal jurisdiction. 

Meanwhile, India's Daughter began surfacing in various YouTube posts Thursday, which were shared widely on social media. Wire agency Press Trust of India reported that, according to sources, India's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology had asked YouTube to remove the links, although YouTube did not confirm whether it received any notification from the government. In a statement, the BBC said that the production company behind the documentary was "currently taking steps to remove illegal uploads."

A YouTube spokesperson later told THR: "While we believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society, where we have launched YouTube locally and are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we may restrict access to it." India's request doesn't affect the ability of people in other countries to watch videos of the documentary.

Leading news network NDTV was scheduled to telecast India's Daughter on Sunday as part of a global simulcast. But following the government's ban, the documentary cannot be aired in India. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter if the network planned to pursue the matter legally, NDTV issued the following statement: "NDTV is shocked at the ban and censorship. There will be no further comments."

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