“The government has been targeting Newsclick apparently after the coverage this news portal gave to the issues of workers and farmers,” a statement by journalist bodies alleged.
The National Alliance of Journalists, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (Delhi Unit) issued a joint statement on Tuesday condemning the Delhi Police raids on NewsClick, its scribes, as well as contributors associated with the news portal.
It said that the residences of journalists like Prabir Purkayastha (Prabir Purkayastha (founder and editor-in-chief of NewsClick), Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Aunindyo Chakraborty, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Abhisar Sharma, Mahesh Kumar, Subodh Varma, Aditi Nigam, and Mukund Jha were raided this morning.
The statement claimed that several of the mediapersons were also taken into custody.
Media reports stated that past employees were targeted as well. The residences of activist Teesta Setalvad and Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, too, were raided.
Writer Githa Hariharan, activist and historian Sohail Hashmi, and satirist and stand-up comic Sanjay Rajaura, too, were ‘raided’ today.
“The government has been targeting Newsclick apparently after the coverage this news portal gave to the issues of workers and farmers,” the statement alleged.
“We believe that this is yet another attempt by the Centre to muzzle the freedom of press. Such an action, raiding and intimidating almost all the employees in a media organisation is unheard of,” it said.
The statement by the journalist bodies also noted that the Newsclick management has been maintaining that whatever funding they have received was through legal sources and that the evidence for this has been submitted to the Delhi High Court.
“These new raids are to divert public attention from burning livelihood issues of people. We condemn this with the strongest possible words. We will stand with these journalists in this matter. We urge the Centre to immediately stop this attack on press freedom. We urge the media fraternity to protest against this witch-hunt by the government,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Press Club of India has demanded the Centre to come out with details of the investigation. “The Press Club of India is deeply concerned about the multiple raids conducted on the houses of journalists and writers associated with #Newsclick. We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement,” the journalists’ body wrote on X.
The Network of Women in Media, India Journalists, termed the police action “shocking”, and said on X that “activists and artists who speak truth to power are being unrelentingly harassed and persecuted by the government, while pliant and sycophantic mediapersons and media houses are being nurtured. This campaign to quell dissent has to stop.”
The Editors Guild of India recorded its concern over the raids and asserted that “the investigation of specific offences must not create a general atmosphere of intimidation under the shadow of draconian laws, or impinge on the freedom of expression and the raising of dissenting and critical voices.”
Its statement also reminded the government about “the importance of an independent media in a functioning democracy.”
Raids at 30 locations across NCR
Sources informed TNIE that searches are being made by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell at more than 30 locations across the NCR, including the office of NewsClick, while its journalists are being questioned and their mobile phones and laptops have been seized by the cops.
Police have recovered dumped data from the seized laptops and phones.
The Special Cell has reportedly filed a new case under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, following allegations that the news portal received money for pro-China propaganda.
Sources told TNIE that the Special Cell has formed a list of at least 25 questions which they are asking the detained journalists. The questions pertain to anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh, Farmers’ Protest, North East Delhi riots and even details of their foreign travels.
There is no confirmation yet of arrests made so far in the searches concentrated in the Delhi-NCR region.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had earlier raided the firm’s premises probing its sources of funding. The Special Cell is conducting raids on the basis of inputs provided by the central agency.
The ED had registered a case against the news portal and alleged that NewsClick received foreign funding in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The agency had also alleged that the money was used for anti-national activities.
On August 5, The New York Times published a report titled “A Global Web of Chinese Propaganda Leads to a US Tech Mogul” which claimed that NewsClick was part of a global network that received funding from American millionaire Neville Roy Singham, who allegedly works closely with the Chinese government media and promoted its point of view in various countries.
Following the NYT report, NewsClick had issued a statement remarking that the allegations made against the organisation were “unfounded and without basis in fact or law.”