Police Raid Homes of Journalists and Seize Phones and Laptops of NewsClick Contributors in Delhi
In a concerning development for press freedom in India, police in Delhi conducted raids on Tuesday, targeting the homes of journalists and contributors of NewsClick, a left-leaning news outlet critical of the Indian government. The raids resulted in the confiscation of phones and laptops from the individuals involved.
NewsClick has long been accused by Indian authorities of financial impropriety, and in recent weeks, the scrutiny of the organization has intensified with allegations that it received funding from China, a geopolitical rival. The police, invoking a stringent anti-terror law, carried out simultaneous raids at over 30 locations across India, according to reports from Indian media outlets.
NewsClick has consistently denied allegations of financial misconduct and its defenders argue that the continuous government scrutiny is an attempt to silence a critical voice. The raids were not limited to just NewsClick journalists, as a broader net was cast, targeting former employees, freelance contributors, and even friends of staff members.
As of Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear how many people associated with NewsClick were affected by the raids, as many had surrendered their electronic devices and were unable to communicate. However, it is believed to be at least a dozen.
The Editors Guild of India released a statement, expressing concern over the raids and highlighting the need to preserve freedom of expression and dissenting voices. They emphasized that the investigation of specific offenses should not create an atmosphere of intimidation under draconian laws.
The Delhi Police have not responded to requests for comments on the raids.
NewsClick, founded in 2009, is known for highlighting stories of social injustices and discontent against the government. Its content largely consists of video commentaries broadcast on platforms like YouTube in English and Hindi.
These raids are the latest in a series of actions against journalists in India, where press freedom has significantly diminished. According to the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, India was ranked 161 out of 180 places in 2023.
Independent media outlets in India face censorship, harassment, arrests, and economic pressures in their efforts to operate. Authorities have increasingly used allegations of financial impropriety to justify raids against media organizations critical of the government. Even international news organizations have not been spared.
The BBC, in February, had its offices raided and phones seized over alleged tax evasion after airing a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Dainik Bhaskar, one of India’s leading Hindi newspapers, was also raided by tax authorities in 2021 after publishing a critical series on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several prominent journalists were among those detained for questioning during the raids on NewsClick. Videos from social media showed Prabir Purkayastha, the editor-in-chief of NewsClick, being taken away by police officials.
The crackdown also affected journalists such as Abhisar Sharma and Bhasha Singh, who had their devices seized. Satirist Sanjay Rajoura was interrogated about his previous work for NewsClick, despite having left the organization nearly two years ago.
Historian Sohail Hashmi, who is not directly affiliated with the outlet but has appeared on NewsClick programs as a guest, was also among those raided. He expressed his belief that the purpose of the raids was to “terrorize independent press and attack diverse voices.”
NewsClick has faced previous raids and scrutiny over its alleged financial links to China, amid strained political ties between the two nations. In August, the Delhi Police filed a case against the outlet under an anti-terror law after the New York Times published an investigation revealing funding from an American tech baron with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
Opposition parties in India have condemned the raids, viewing them as an attempt to divert attention from other controversies facing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Modi government has been accused of attempting to control the media and taking action against those who criticize it.
Late on Tuesday, as NewsClick’s editor was being questioned by the police, the organization’s homepage featured articles on urgent national issues, including a state caste census resisted by the central government and allegations of opaque political funding to the ruling party.
The raids on NewsClick journalists raise concerns about press freedom and the ability of independent media in India to operate without fear of intimidation or persecution. These actions demonstrate the shrinking space for dissenting voices and the challenges faced by those who seek to hold power accountable.