Several associations of journalists and news organisations as well as Opposition parties raised concerns on Tuesday about the Delhi Police’s raids on journalists associated with news website NewsClick.
The police action on Tuesday morning was in connection with an investigation into the funding of NewsClick. The case registered in August was filed under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
Among those raided were NewsClick’s editor Prabir Purkayastha, journalists Abhisar Sharma, Aunindyo Chakravarty and Bhasha Singh, and satirist Sanjay Rajaura. In Mumbai, similar action was being taken against activist Teesta Setalvad, who is the director of think tank Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. The think tank has written articles for NewsClick.
The Editors Guild of India urged the Centre to follow the due process and said the raids are yet another attempt to muzzle the media. “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,” the association said in a statement.
The Press Club of India said it was “deeply concerned” about the raids. It asserted that it stood in solidarity with the journalists and urged the government to “come out with details” about the case.
The Digipub News India Foundation, an 11-member digital-only news association, and the Mumbai Press Club also expressed deep concern.
“They have been detained, their phones and laptops seized,” Digipub said in a social media post. “This is another instance of the government’s pattern of arbitrary and intimidatory behaviour. We are keeping an eye on developments.”
The Mumbai Press Club said that it “urges for an unbiased investigation and calls upon the Delhi Police to desist from what is perceived as a targeted harassment campaign against these journalists”.
The Foundation for Media Professionals said that the raids were of “grave concern”. “We ask for greater disclosure by authorities on the raids today,” the foundation said on social media. “The seizure of phones and laptops of journalists without legal safeguards jeopardises freedom of press.”
Pointing to a plea filed before the Supreme Court in 2022, the foundation added, “We have already petitioned the Supreme Court of India for guidelines on the search and seizure of journalists’ devices.”
A statement by the National Alliance of Journalists, the Delhi Union of Journalists and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (Delhi Unit) said that the government was targeting NewsClick after it covered the issues of workers and farmers.
The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance said that it condemns the “fresh attack” by the Bharatiya Janata Party government on the media.
“In the last nine years, the BJP government has deliberately persecuted and suppressed the media by deploying investigative agencies to suppress the British Broadcasting Corporation, Newslaundry, Dainik Bhaskar, Bharat Samachar, The Kashmir Walla, The Wire etc., and most recently the journalists of NewsClick,” it said.
The coalition said that the government’s actions are only directed at those media bodies and journalists who “speak truth to power”.
The statement added: “Ironically, the BJP government is paralysed when it comes to taking action against those journalists inciting hatred and divisiveness in the nation.”
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera claimed the raids were a distraction from the findings of the Bihar caste census and the growing demand for such a nationwide survey. “When he faces questions from out of syllabus, he resorts to the only counter he has in his predictable syllabus,” he said, purportedly alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the police actions reflect an “insecure and autocratic state”.
“Why does a government as strong and authoritarian as this one is, feel threatened by a news website?” he asked on X. “And that too, one that is not even ranked very high in reach or readership? Intolerance is unworthy of everything that India represents. The government has disgraced itself and our democracy today.”
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said that raids were a sign of a “losing BJP”.
“This is not a new thing, BJP rulers have always raided honest journalists,” he tweeted. “But how many crores of rupees are being given to ‘friendly channels’ every month in the name of government publicity?”
On August 5, The New York Times published a report claiming that NewsClick had received funds from a network centred around American millionaire Neville Roy Singham to spread “Chinese propaganda” around the world.
The report claimed that Singham worked closely with the “Chinese government media machine” and promoted its point of view in various countries.
At the time, Purkayastha, however, told Scroll that the allegations about the organisation functioning as a mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China were false.