October 08, 2023

Stifling the Media Voices

IN a press statement issued by Newsclick on October 4, it mentioned that on October 3, 2023, raids were carried out by the special cell of the Delhi police at various locations including Newsclick’s offices, residences of journalists and employees – past and present, consultants, and freelance contributors associated with Newsclick.

Several persons were questioned and continue to be questioned. As of now, the founder-editor 76-year old Prabir Purkayastha and the administrative officer Amit Chakraborty, who happens to be physically challenged, have been arrested.

The press statement underlined that Newsclick has not been provided with a copy of the FIR, or informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which they 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 them from continuing their reporting.

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

Newsclick has strongly condemned 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.

The press statement noted that 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 and 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, 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, the press statement said.