The Delhi Police on Tuesday arrested NewsClick founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha in connection with its investigation into a case filed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act following allegations that the news website received money to push Chinese propaganda.
Amit Chakraborty, who is the human resources head of NewsClick, has also been arrested, NDTV reported.
Earlier in the day, the police raided several journalists associated with NewsClick and later sealed the organisation’s office in South Delhi.
“A total of 37 male suspects have been questioned at premises, nine female suspects have been questioned at their respective places of stay and digital devices, documents etc. have been seized/collected for examination,” the police said in a statement.
The searches, spanning 30 locations, were based on a first information report filed on August 17 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.
Apart from Purkayastha, journalists Abhisar Sharma, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Sumedha Pal, Aritry Das and satirist Sanjay Rajaura were among those raided. The ambit of the police action extended not just to the editorial management, but also to staffers across designations as well as contributors.
Opposition parties and news associations criticised the action, saying that the Bharatiya Janata Party government is targeting journalists who speak truth to power and not those who spread hatred.
Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur, however, insisted that investigating agencies are independent and work in accordance with the law.
Tuesday’s action came after The New York Times on August 5 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.
In February 2021, the Enforcement Directorate had raided NewsClick in a case of alleged unlawful foreign funding.
The first information report by the central agency alleged that PPK NewsClick Studio Private Limited received Foreign Direct Investment of Rs 9.59 crore from Worldwide Media Holdings LLC USA during the financial year 2018-19. It was alleged that this was in violation of a law that caps FDI in a digital news website at 26%.
However, the Delhi High Court granted interim in June 2021 granted interim protection to NewsClick and Purkayastha.
In August this year, the High Court sought Purkayastha’s stand on a plea by the Enforcement Directorate seeking withdrawal of the interim protection.