The Income Tax department has rejected allegations that its officials were suggesting changes in news articles published by the Dainik Bhaskar media group, and taking other editorial decisions during its raids at offices of the Hindi daily on Thursday. The raids were reportedly linked to alleged tax evasions by the organisation.
“In keeping with the department’s protocol, the investigation team only looked into the financial transactions of the group related to tax evasion,” the department said in one of a series of tweets.
The raids were conducted on several offices of the newspaper across Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Madhya Pradesh, where Dainik Bhaskar’s headquarters is located, officials had searched the business as well as residential premises of the promoters of the media group.
Dainik Bhaskar had widely reported on the second wave of Covid-19 and its devastating effects. In a series of reports, the newspaper was critical of the Centre’s claims on vaccination figures, underreporting of deaths, floating bodies in Ganga river and the toll due to oxygen shortages.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Dainik Bhaskar had claimed that Income Tax officials were interfering in the editorial process.
“This article has been published after the the officials who have come for the raids read it,” the statement said. “The officials in Dainik Bhaskar’s office have instructed us to show them every news article before publishing.”
Om Gaur, one of the national editors of the newspaper, told NDTV that the officials asked employees of the digital section of Dainik Bhaskar’s editorial team to show them the news articles before they were published.
The Income Tax department, however, said that the allegations were “absolutely false”. It said that Gaur lives in Lucknow, where no raids took place and the editor was not questioned.
“The allegations being made have no basis and in fact seem to be highly motivated,” the Income Tax department said.
The newspaper, meanwhile, has alleged that the raids were conducted to intimidate the media group.
“The government is scared of true journalism; it is trying to browbeat the Bhaskar group, which highlighted dead bodies in the Ganga river and the true number of Covid-19 deaths,” they said in the statement on Thursday.