New Delhi: Delhi Police’s Special Cell conducted raids at the premises of online news portal NewsClick and its journalists, today, triggering outrage against the action.
Officials said that the Special Cell searched 30 locations connected with the NewsClick and its journalists in a case filed under draconian law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) following allegations that it received money for pro-China propaganda.
Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and Phone…
— Abhisar Sharma (@abhisar_sharma) October 3, 2023
“Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and Phone… [sic],” Abhisar Sharma posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Bhasha Singh wrote, “Finally last tweet from this phone. Delhi police seizure my phone [sic].”
Some journalists, including Urmilesh and Abhishar Sharma, were taken to the Lodhi Road Special Cell office but no one has been arrested so far, the officials said. Founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha was taken to the NewsClick south Delhi office.
The Enforcement Directorate had earlier conducted raids at the firm’s premises probing its sources of funding. The Special Cell now raided the media firm on the basis of the inputs provided by the ED.
The Special Cell has registered a new case under the UAPA and started an investigation, they said.
Abhisar Sharma, a senior journalist, wrote on X, formerly twitter, “Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and phone.”
Another journalist, Bhasha Singh, wrote on X, “Finally last tweet from this phone. Delhi police seizure (sic) my phone.”
Among others whose houses were raided included Prabir Purkayastha (founder and Editor-in-Chief), Aunindyo Chakravarty, Urmilesh, Sohail Hashmi and satirist Sanjay Rajoura.
Meanwhile, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party as well as the Press Club of India strongly reacted to the searches and criticized the Narendra Modi-led government for the action.
Congress’ media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said the early morning raids on contributing journalists at Newsclick come as a “fresh distraction from the explosive findings of caste census in Bihar and the growing demand for caste census across the country”.
“When he faces questions from out of syllabus, he resorts to the only counter he has in his predictable syllabus – DISTRACTION,” Khera said on X.
Samajwadi Party leader Abbas Haider maintained that it is unfortunate and dangerous for the democracy. “I believe BJP is trying to demolish the fourth pillar of democracy, which is the media. It is unfortunate and dangerous for our democracy. We are standing with the journalists,” he said.
The Press Club of India on X said it is deeply concerned about raids on the houses of journalists and writers associated with NewsClick. “We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement. The PCI stands in solidarity with the journalists and demands the government to come out with details,” it said.
On the other hand, the President of Peoples Democratic Party in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, described the raids as a “fishing” expedition. She said the raids were extremely perturbing as she accused the Indian government of championing press abroad and attacking it at home.
“GOI (government of India) claims India is the mother of democracy & about press freedom abroad yet in the same breath uses state agencies to the crackdown on the remaining handful of independent media outlets,” she wrote in a post on X.
“Even telephone devices have been forcibly snatched only for a fishing expedition. The repeated illegal pattern of arrest first & creating fake charges later is extremely perturbing (sic),” she said.
In August, the Delhi High Court sought the stand of NewsClick Founder and Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha on a plea by the city police seeking vacation of an earlier order granting him interim protection from arrest in an unlawful foreign funding case.
The website was recently accused by the Modi government of receiving money from the US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for pro-China propaganda in India.
The Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur claimed that the NewsClick’s money trail revealed an “anti-India agenda.”