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Newsclick issues statement on raids on its journalists, Press bodies condemn govt harrassement

By Priti Prakash | PUBLISHED: 04, Oct 2023, 19:52 pm IST | UPDATED: 10, Oct 2023, 10:12 am IST

Newsclick issues statement on raids on its journalists, Press bodies condemn govt harrassement

New Delhi:
With the hashtag PressFreedom and FreedomofExpression trending on X (former Twitter) after the Delhi Police Special Cell raided on the offices of news website & homes of journalists & employees on October 3, 2023 in connection with an FIR filed under the draconian UAPA and laws relating to criminal conspiracy and disruption of communal harmony which included alleged links with terrorists, funding from China and anti India propaganda, Newsclick issued a statement. A letter to Chief Justice of India too has been written by coalition of organisations representing  the free press.

A team of the Special cell of the Delhi police landed at the homes of Newsclick founder Prabir Purkayastha, journalists Abhisar Sharma, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, cultural activist Sohail Hashmi, Teesta Setalvad, Aunindyo Chakraborty, Mahesh Kumar, Subodh Varma, Aditi Nigam, Mukund Jha, comedian Sanjay Rajoura and several others and seized their phones and laptops. They did not have any warrants nor give any assurance that the equipment will not be tampered with. The journalists were also taken to undisclosed locations for 'questioning'.

Newsclick statement said, ‘We have not been provided with a copy of the FIR, or informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which we have been charged. Electronic devices were seized from the Newsclick premises and homes of employees, without any adherence to due process such as the provision of seizure memos, hash values of the seized data, or even copies of the data. Newsclick’s office has also been sealed in a blatant attempt at preventing us from continuing our reporting.

‘What we have been able to gather is that Newsclick stands accused of offences under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for purportedly carrying Chinese propaganda on its website.

‘We strongly condemn these actions of a Government that refuses to respect journalistic independence, and treats criticism as sedition or “anti-national” propaganda.

‘Newsclick has been targeted by a series of actions by various agencies of the Government of India since 2021. Its offices and residences of officials have been raided by the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police and the Income Tax Department.

‘All devices, laptops, gadgets, phones, etc. have been seized in the past. All emails and communications have been analysed under the microscope. All bank statements, invoices, expenses incurred, sources of funds received by Newsclick in the last several years have been scrutinised by different agencies of the Government from time to time. Various directors and other related persons have spent countless hours on several occasions being interrogated by these government agencies.

‘Yet, in the last two plus years, the Enforcement Directorate has not been able to file a complaint accusing Newsclick of money laundering. The Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police has not been able to file a charge sheet against Newsclick for offences under the Indian Penal Code. The Income Tax Department has not been able to defend its actions before the Courts of law.

‘In the last several months, Mr. Prabir Purkayastha has not even been called in for questioning by any of these agencies.

‘Yet, a Government that has not been able to substantiate any charges against Newsclick despite being in possession of all its information, documentation and communications, needed a motivated and bogus article published in the New York Times to invoke the draconian UAPA and attempt to shut down and stifle independent and fearless voices that portray the story of the real India – of peasants, of labourers, of farmers, and other oft-ignored sections of society.

‘We want to state for the record:
1. Newsclick is an independent news website.
2. Our journalistic content is based on highest standards of the profession.
3. Newsclick does not publish any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority, directly or indirectly.
4. Newsclick does not propagate Chinese propaganda on its website.
5. Newsclick does not take directions from Neville Roy Singham regarding the content published on its website.
6. All funding received by Newsclick has been through the appropriate banking channels and have been reported to the relevant authorities as required by law, as substantiated by the Reserve Bank of India in proceedings before the High Court of Delhi.

‘All journalistic content ever published on Newsclick website is available on the internet, and can be seen by anyone. The Special Cell of Delhi Police has not referred to a single article or video that they consider to be Chinese propaganda. Indeed, the line of questioning adopted by the Special Cell of the Delhi Policy – regarding reportage on the Delhi riots, the farmers protests etc., all demonstrate the motivated and malicious intent behind the present proceedings.

‘We have full faith in the Courts and the judicial process. We will fight for our journalistic freedom and our lives in accordance with the Constitution of India.’

India Women’s Press Corps, along with all major apex journalists bodies like Press Club of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, Press Association, Digipub India News Foundation, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), National Alliance for Journalists (NAJ), APWJF, KUWJ amoung others  have condemned the manner in which Press is being treated and false allegations being levelled on them.  

A team of the Special cell of the Delhi police landed at the homes of Newsclick founder Prabir Purkayastha, journalists Abhisar Sharma, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, cultural activist Sohail Hashmi and several others and seized their phones and laptops. They did not have any warrants nor give any assurance that the equipment will not be tampered with. The journalists were also taken to undisclosed locations for 'questioning'.

IWPC condemns raids

In a statement issued by IWPC it is said, ‘The Indian Women’s Press Corps expresses deep outrage at the early morning raids in the homes of more than half a dozen senior journalists, contributors and consultants associated with the online news media portal Newsclick. The manner in which the sections of the media are being repeatedly targeted - because they have raised concern about certain policies of the government as these are not people-friendly - reflects very poorly on a government representing the world's largest democracy.

The IWPC demands that this harassment of the media by government agencies should stop. A vibrant democracy will never remain vibrant if the media is not given the space to analyse government policies independently. Elected democracies have a greater responsibility to ensure that the media operates in an unfettered manner.
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