The Income Tax department’s raids on the offices of the Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation, non-governmental organisation Oxfam India in Bengaluru and the Centre for Policy Research think tank in Delhi is an assault on independent journalism and research, a digital media collective said on Thursday.
The Digipub News India Foundation, an 11-member digital-only news association, said that raids show “how petrified our government is of independent media”. Scroll.in is among the founding members of the association.
On Wednesday, Income Tax officials raided the offices of the Centre for Policy Research, Oxfam India and the Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation. The department did not issue a statement on the reasons for the raids, but unidentified officials told The New Indian Express that the authorities checked receipts of funds received through the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act.
Digipub said on Thursday that it “strongly condemns” the raids and called on the Income Tax Department to state the reasons behind the actions.
The media collective noted that this was not the first time that such raids have been carried out in recent years.
“Without any clarity on allegations or evidence, Income Tax teams are being used to intimidate and harass organisations involved in public service journalism,” it said. “This is a brazen waste of human resources and of the efforts of government officials who have joined the service to add value to India’s administrative mechanism.”
Digipub noted that the Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation supports several digital media platforms, and said that such platforms are “desperately needed in the bleak news media landscape”. It also said that the data provided by Centre for Policy Research and Oxfam gives insight into socio-economic matters. “All this is important for a healthy democracy,” the media collective said.
On Wednesday, the Income Tax Department also carried out searches at more than 100 locations across several states to ostensibly crack down on financial improprieties by registered unrecognised political parties, The Indian Express reported.
The number of such parties have more than doubled between 2011-’21, from 1,112 in 2010 to 2,796 in 2021, according to the Association of Democratic reforms reports.
Presently, only close to 2% of 2,858 registered political parties are recognised.
The Election Commission has reported that the majority of them do not adhere to statutory compliances, such as filing documents related to funding and taxation, among others.