Journalist bodies criticise freezing of NewsClick accounts by I-T Department

‘The salaries of all employees, including support staff, cannot be disbursed, including for the 19 days of work in December,’ a joint statement said

Updated - December 20, 2023 08:27 pm IST

Published - December 20, 2023 08:17 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Journalist bodies on December 20 criticised the freezing of the bank accounts of news portal NewsClick by the Income-Tax Department.

In a joint statement, the Press Club of India, the Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Delhi Union of Journalists, the Press Association, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, and the Working News Cameraman’s Association objected to the action taken “without any warning”, which had in one stroke deprived close to a hundred media persons and their families of a steady source of income.

Editorial | Undeclared Emergency: On the arrests and actions in Newsclick case

“The salaries of all employees, including support staff, cannot be disbursed, including for the 19 days of work in December. This action by the I[-]T department also flouts basic norms of natural justice and labour laws. The portal has maintained that it has always complied with tax regulations and that there was no basis for the I[-]T department to freeze its accounts,” the statement said.

The organisations said the development came on the heels of “sustained harassment in the form of ED [Enforcement Directorate] raids and I[-]T surveys in 2021 and the arrest of NewsClick’s founder Prabir Purkayastha and Administrative Officer Amit Chakraborty in October this year”.

“Both, Purkayastha and Chakraborty, have been booked under draconian clauses. It has been observed that such arrests of media persons have become the norm rather than the exception. Both continue to be in judicial custody for an indefinite period of time,” they said, adding that another area of concern was the indiscriminate seizure of electronic equipment under the pretext of investigations.

“While other independent media have also suffered such excesses with equipment being seized and confiscated for months altogether, in October, for the first time, electronic equipment like mobile phones and laptops of NewsClick journalists, ex-employees and even contributors was seized in an early morning operation which was unprecedented in itself,” the statement said.

“Many, who are single earners, had to buy new equipment in order to continue working as there was no assurance of their seized equipment being returned in a definite time frame and that too in an untampered state. In addition, the ‘summoning’ and ‘questioning’ for days altogether of NewsClick staff and reporters on the pretext of investigation has been another mode of sustained harassment by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police,” it said.

The organisations demanded that the “harassment of the media and media-persons in the form of raids, arrests under non-bailable draconian clauses, freezing of accounts without prior intimation and the seizure of electronic equipment sans any guidelines or parameters should stop forthwith”.

“As such equipment is the lifeline for persons operating in the media space, such seizures effectively target livelihoods. Just as the other pillars of our democracy need to be allowed to function independently, so does the media. An independent media strengthens democracy; demoralising and stifling it will have the opposite effect,” they said.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.