Nonprofit organisations Reporters Without Borders and Guernica 37 Chambers on Wednesday called on the European Union to sanction four high-ranking officers of the Delhi Police for “exactions” against journalists associated with news website NewsClick.

Reporters Without Borders is an international nonprofit headquartered in Paris and focused on safeguarding press freedom. Guernica 37 Chambers is a London-based specialist group of international criminal and human rights lawyers.

The organisations said in a statement that they have made a submission to the European External Action Service, the European Union’s diplomatic service, to adopt “sanctions against four officials of the Delhi Police’s counter-terrorism unit, who are implicated in an unprecedented crackdown on journalists in the country”.

Without naming the police officers, the organisations said that they ordered raids on the homes of 46 journalists associated with NewsClick in Delhi and surrounding towns in October.

On October 3, Delhi Police raided several journalists associated with NewsClick and arrested the website’s founder, Prabir Purkayastha, and human resources head, Amit Chakraborty, in a case filed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The police have alleged that the news organisation received money to spread Chinese propaganda.

In their statements, Reporters Without Borders and Guernica 37 Chambers said on Wednesday: “Several journalists targeted by the raids had investigated alleged fraud committed by the Adani conglomerate, whose chairman is considered close to current Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

They said that reporters who covered the farmers’ protests between 2020 and 2021 were also targeted.

The organisations alleged that the Delhi Police Special Cell, which reports to the Union home ministry headed by Amit Shah, is regularly used to intimidate voices “critical of the government”.

In view of this, they urged the European Union to impose sanctions against the four police officers under the European Magnitsky Act “to address serious human rights violations in third countries”.

The law allows the European Union to freeze the assets of, ban entry to, and prohibit dealings with human rights abusers wherever they may be located.

Case against NewsClick

The case was registered after The New York Times alleged in an August 5 report that NewsClick had received money from American businessman Neville Roy Singham, who worked closely with the “Chinese government media machine” to spread its propaganda.

The Delhi Police’s first information report describes Singham as an active member of the propaganda department of the Communist Party of China.

On October 6, NewsClick said that the “absurd nature” of the allegations shows that the proceedings are nothing but an attempt to muzzle the free press.

Meanwhile, Singham alleged that The New York Times “intentionally chose not to publish” his responses to the August 5 article and did disservice to the cause of press freedom.

The American investor termed the newspaper’s article as a “misleading and innuendo-laden hit piece” on him. He said he had given his response to The New York Times on July 22 but the newspaper did not publish his point of view.

On December 19, NewsClick said that the Income Tax Department has “virtually frozen” its bank accounts, restricting it from paying salaries to its staff.

The action by the Income Tax Department appears to be a continuation of the “administrative-legal siege”, the news website said in a statement, highlighting the Enforcement Directorate’s raids against it in February 2021, an Income Tax Department survey in September 2021 and the October 3 crackdown by the Delhi Police Special Cell.

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