Journalist bodies slam raids on NewsClick scribes, call it attempt to ‘muzzle’ free media

Media bodies gathered at the Press Club of India expressed solidarity with the journalists at NewsClick while condemning the ‘witch-hunt’ by the State agencies

October 03, 2023 06:53 pm | Updated 10:03 pm IST - New Delhi

Indian police raided the NewsClick offices, which is under investigation for allegedly receiving funds from China, as well as the homes of several of its journalists.

Indian police raided the NewsClick offices, which is under investigation for allegedly receiving funds from China, as well as the homes of several of its journalists. | Photo Credit: AP

Media bodies on October 3 described the police action against those associated with NewsClick portal as yet another attempt to muzzle the freedom of press, expressing solidarity with the journalists whose premises were searched.

The Press Club of India, which demanded that the government should come out with the details of the matter, held a spontaneous protest meeting against the multiple raids. “The meeting resolved to continue protest by several journalists bodies for defending media freedom,” it said through its X (formerly Twitter) handle.

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) executive committee released a statement, expressing concern over the raids at the residences of senior journalists. “Their laptops, mobile phones and other devices have been seized. Senior journalists have been taken into custody by the Delhi police, allegedly for ‘questioning.’ Media reports suggest that the raids have been widespread,” it said.

Noting that the police action pertained to a First Information Report registered under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other provisions relating to criminal conspiracy and disruption of communal harmony, the EGI said, “While we recognise that the law must take its course if actual offences are involved, the due process has to be followed.”

The EGI said: “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. We remind the government of the importance of an independent media in a functioning democracy, and urge it to ensure that the fourth pillar is respected, nurtured and protected.”

The National Alliance of Journalists, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (Delhi Unit) also condemned the police raids at the Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Prabir Purkayastha, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Teesta Setalvad, Abhisar Sharma, Aunindyo Chakraborty, Mahesh Kumar, Subodh Varma, Aditi Nigam, Mukund Jha and others.

“Several of the media persons have been taken into custody. The Delhi police have also raided the homes of comedian Sanjay Rajoura and academic Sohail Hashmi...these raids are in connection with alleged foreign investments in NewsClick. The government has been targeting Newsclick apparently after the coverage this news portal gave to the issues of workers and farmers. We believe that this is yet another attempt by the Centre to muzzle the freedom of press,” said a joint statement.

It added, “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. The NewsClick management has been maintaining that whatever funding they have received was through legal sources and evidence for this have been submitted in the High Court of Delhi. These new raids are to divert public attention from burning livelihood issues of people.”

“Unfortunately, journalists are being targeted for furthering the political agenda of the ruling party. 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 read.

DIGIPUB, in its statement, said: “This coordinated action of the police against news professionals and commentators clearly violates due process and fundamental rights. This has taken the government’s pattern of arbitrary and intimidatory behaviour to a whole other level.”

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