NewsClick:Delhi police raid homes of prominent journalists

Source: BBC

Police in the Indian capital, Delhi, have raided the homes of several prominent journalists and authors in connection with an investigation into the funding of news website NewsClick.

Police have seized mobile phones and laptops of those they raided on Tuesday morning.

Officials are reportedly investigating allegations that NewsClick got illegal funds from China – a charge it denies.

Critics say the move is an intentional attack on press freedom.

Started in 2009, NewsClick is an independent news and current affairs website which is known to be critical of the government. In 2021, it was raided by tax authorities on allegations of breaking India’s foreign direct investment rules.

Among those who have been reportedly raided on Tuesday are the website’s editor Prabir Purkayastha, journalists Abhisar Sharma, Aunindyo Chakravarty and Bhasha Singh, popular satirist Sanjay Rajoura and historian Sohail Hashmi. Some of them have been taken to police stations for questioning.

The police have not yet commented on the raids but Mr Sharma confirmed the development on X (formerly Twitter) and said that the police had taken away his phone and laptop. Ms Singh also wrote that police had seized her phone.

Searches were also under way at the website’s office in Delhi, news agency ANI reported.

Delhi Police spokesperson Suman Nalwa declined the BBC’s request for comment and said she would “share the details when she gets them”.

According to reports, the raids are in connection with a case registered against NewsClick in August after a New York Times report alleged that the website had received funds from an American millionaire to spread “Chinese propaganda”.

It claimed that Neville Roy Singham worked closely with the “Chinese government media machine” and used his network of non-profit groups and shell companies to “finance its propaganda worldwide”.

A case was reportedly registered on 17 August against the website. NewsClick has strongly denied all the charges as false.

Mr Rajoura’s lawyer Ilin Saraswat told the BBC that police reached the comedian’s home at 06:30 local time (01:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

A vocal critic of the government, Mr Rajoura has worked on satirical videos for NewsClick in the past. Mr Saraswat said the police seized his laptop, his two phones, some DVDs of his old work and some documents.

“The police said that Mr Rajoura is not named in the current investigation, but since he has worked with the website, he will be interrogated. We have not been provided a copy of the police complaint,” he added.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, a number of media outlets have been investigated by the government for financial impropriety, raising fears about press freedom in the world’s largest democracy.

Earlier this year, tax officials searched BBC offices in India, questioning staff about the organisation’s business operations in the country. The searches in Delhi and Mumbai had come weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary in the UK critical of Mr Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Tax officials also accused the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper of tax evasion in 2021 after its critical coverage of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, has placed India at 161st place in its press freedom rankings this year. It said the situation in the country has deteriorated from “problematic” to “very bad” and compared it with Tajikistan (at 153rd) and Turkey (at 165th).

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