The homes of several journalists linked with the news portal NewsClick were raided by the Delhi Police on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, in connection with the stringent anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). According to the Indian Express report, Delhi Police registered a case on August 17 against the journalists and writers following an allegation made by The New York Times that the portal had received funding from the network based in China. The New York Times, in their investigation, alleged that the news portal had received funding from the network related to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham, which promotes Chinese propaganda.
Special forces from Delhi Police raided almost two dozen locations in Delhi - NCR. So far, no arrests have been made but as per media reports, the website's editor Prabir Purkayastha, and Human Resource head Amit Chakravarty were taken to the police station for more questioning. The Enforcement Directorate had also registered a case against the individuals linked with the news portal NewsClick. The central agency has seized some assets of the portal. Officials will update more clear information after the investigation.
The houses that have been raided by the special cell of Delhi Police include the website’s editor, Prabir Purkyastha; popular satirist Sanjay Rajoura; Journalists Abhisar Sharma, Aunindyo Chakraborty, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh; and historian Sohail Hashmi. As per the information given by ANI, the officials raided the office of NewsClick on 3 October.
NewsClick is an independent news portal that was established in 2009. The news portal has criticized the government through its articles. The news portal came under the scanner in 2021 when the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police filed a case against it. The Delhi High Court gave protection from arrests to the NewsClick promoters, and the matter is before the court.
Critics have shared their disappointment and alleged that the ongoing crackdown on media organizations threatens the freedom of the press which intimidates journalists and writers. Journalist Abhisar Sharma shared the news about the raid on platform X (formerly Twitter) that the officials seized his phone and laptop.
The Press Club of India has expressed its concern over the raids on platform X (formerly Twitter). They mentioned that they are monitoring the developments and will share a detailed report soon. Union Minister Anurag Thakur responded to media queries in Bhubaneshwar that there is no need for justification and if there is anything wrong, then the search officials are independent in carrying out the investigation under the set of guidelines.
Eighteen organizations including journalists and media outlets, have sent a joint letter to the Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandranund over the rising scrutiny of freedom of the press. The letter requested the court’s assistance in establishing norms to prevent the arbitrary seizure of journalists' laptops and phones, developing guidelines for the questioning of journalists and conducting seizures from them. The letter also requested to figure out the ways to hold state agencies and individual officers accountable when they are found to be breaking the law. Journalists, teachers, students, and several organizations staged a protest against Delhi Police actions on the news portal ‘NewsClick’ at Jantar Mantar in Delhi since the arrests. Journalist Paranjoy GuhaThakurta referred to this day (the day of arrests) as a ‘black day’ for the press in India.
Earlier this year, tax officials searched the offices of the media outlet BBC and questioned the staff over their business operations in India. It came weeks after the organization aired the documentary in the UK on PM Modi’s critical role in the Gujarat riots in 2002. Tax officials also accused the media outlet Dainik Bhaskar of tax evasion in 2021. Dainik Bhaskar had critically covered the government’s handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Editorial: Sally (Anh) Ngo
October 5, 2023
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