Human rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties on Sunday expressed shock at the detention of Newsclick Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha and author Githa Hariharan at their home amid the Enforcement Directorate’s days-long search in connection with a money-laundering case. The organisation also criticised the media coverage of the raids.
“People’s Union for Civil Liberties is shocked at the illegal detention of the editor-in-chief of news portal, Newsclick, Prabir Purkayastha and well-known author, Githa Hariharan, at their home in Delhi as the 113-hour search by the Enforcement Directorate continued,” the organisation said in a statement. “Senior citizens aged 73 and 67 years, they were kept in confinement and not allowed access to phones and even to their lawyers in gross violation of their fundamental rights.”
PUCL said the raid on the portal’s employees seemed like action against “a business cartel out to manipulate the market”.
The organisation criticised the conduct of other media houses. “What came as a rude shock was that sections of the press carried selective leaks by ED,” PUCL said. “Newspapers and media outlets otherwise championing the cause of press freedom unfortunately allowed themselves to be used to smear the portal. Repeatedly, Newsclick issued statements saying it was cooperating with the investigation and had nothing to hide.”
PUCL said Newsclick was being targeted for the kind of stories it did. “Newsclick is now renowned for: covering voices that do not feature in the mainstream media – whether it is tribal people displaced from the homes by so-called “development” projects or farmers out in protest in large numbers,” it said. “It is evident that this was a ham-handed attempt to silence a media outlet that continued to feature stories that questioned the narrative the government wants to propagate, even as large sections of the media had surrendered.”
PUCL also mentioned journalists like Mandeep Punia and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who have been targeted for their work. “We call upon all right-thinking citizens to stand in solidarity with the Newsclick team as they courageously carry out their journalistic duties of informing the citizens the truth about what is happening in India under the leadership of the present ruling party in the Centre and States, as also all other journalists and media organisations,” it said.
The Editors Guild of India, The Press Club of India and The Communist Party of India (Marxist) have also condemned the action against the news portal. Newsclick, on the other hand, has said it won’t be stifled by the raids.