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Statement on Worldwide Media Holdings’ investment in NewsClick

In this statement, Jason Pfetcher, manager of Worldwide Media Holdings, clarifies on the provenance of the funds that the for-profit investment vehicle based in the U.S. invested in NewsClick

October 06, 2023 10:56 pm | Updated October 07, 2023 08:46 am IST

Sealed office of NewsClick at Sainik Farm in New Delhi on October 3, 2023.

Sealed office of NewsClick at Sainik Farm in New Delhi on October 3, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

My name is Jason Pfetcher. I am a lawyer based in the United States. I would like to set the record straight regarding Worldwide Media Holdings LLC (“WMH”) and an investment made by WMH to PPK NewsClick Studio Private Limited (“NewsClick”) in India.

I have been an attorney in the United States for over 25 years. For many years, I worked at ThoughtWorks, Inc., an IT consultancy that has a worldwide footprint. I left ThoughtWorks in 2017 when the company was sold to a British private equity fund, Apax Partners (founded in 1969). I joined ThoughtWorks’ founder, Neville Roy Singham (“Roy”), to assist him in his efforts to give away most of the proceeds he received from the sale.

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

We created a private foundation in the United States called the People’s Support Foundation, Limited (“PSF”), and I have been a board member since its inception. All funds donated to PSF came from the sale of ThoughtWorks. PSF has never received funds from a foreign government.

PSF wholly owns and operates WMH, of which I am the manager. WMH is a for-profit investment vehicle which has made various investments in progressive media projects around the world that provide people-centered news coverage. While these entities are consistent with PSF’s mission, PSF seeks a return on the investments we make in them.

Judicial interventions in ongoing cases against NewsClick: A timeline of events 

Toward the end of 2017, WMH identified NewsClick as an organization that was consistent with WMH’s purposes and commenced due diligence on a potential investment in NewsClick. As part of this process, I visited Delhi and hired local counsel, met with Newsclick’s editor and other Newsclick staff, toured its facilities, and negotiated with Newsclick’s legal counsel. Following the completion of due diligence, the PSF board determined that it was advisable that WMH invest in Newsclick. That investment was finalized in March 2018. While I have attended various shareholder meetings of Newsclick on behalf of WMH, none of the principals of PSF or WMH, including myself, have ever influenced, guided, or directed the journalistic work of Newsclick.

The NewsClick investment opportunity came to WMH, in part, from our relationship with Prabir Purkayastha. I met Prabir while working at ThoughtWorks; we were fellow employees there for many years. Prabir was, and remains, highly regarded as a journalist, author, technologist, scientist, researcher, and business person.

In 2021, NewsClick’s offices were raided by India’s Enforcement Directorate, which accused the organization of money laundering. The Economic Offences Wing, Delhi Police subsequently initiated its own investigation, as did the Revenue Service of India. Over many months, dozens of NewsClick’s journalists, staff, and other associates, including Prabir and Amit Chakraborty, were interrogated at length, and some of them multiple times.

When asked, WMH has provided the Indian authorities confirmation regarding the provenance of the funds invested in NewsClick by WMH. WMH has also provided ample evidence that it is and has always been in good standing with the state of Delaware where it is incorporated, despite false information being circulated that WMH was a defunct entity when it invested in NewsClick.

Prabir, along with Amit, have now been arrested and jailed by the Indian government, and NewsClick’s offices have been sealed. False allegations about the provenance of the funds invested in NewsClick continue to circulate, despite all the facts WMH has given the Indian authorities. These dire circumstances compel me to set the record straight.

It appears that much of the basis for this action by the Indian government stems from a slanderous article that was published by The New York Times on August 5, 2023. Before that article was published, I responded to the reporters’ questions on behalf of PSF as follows: “PSF has never received any funding, nor taken direction from any foreign individual, organization, political party, or government (or from any of their members or representatives).” The New York Times failed to include PSF’s categorical denial of foreign funding, and instead left readers to believe that the source of PSF’s funding (or Roy’s for that matter) might have come from China, rather than from the sale of ThoughtWorks. Their salacious headlines and misleading ‘reporting’ have now directly contributed to the arrest of innocent journalists.

I have been traveling to India and doing business there for nearly 20 years. I recommended this particular investment without hesitation, eager to see India’s already vibrant media landscape be made even more so by the growth of a media project eager to give voice to the voiceless. I have always been highly conscientious about respecting local laws. Therefore, reputable lawyers and law firms were consulted to ensure that this investment strictly followed all aspects of Indian law, specifically including those limiting foreign ownership in media companies. Given the repression that is now taking place, it begs the question as to whether India is a safe place for foreign investors who carefully follow Indian law.

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