2 arrested after Indian police raid media office, homes of journalists
Founder of news portal arrested in connection with case registered under anti-terror law
Indian police arrested two people Tuesday, including the founder of a news portal, after raids were carried out at the portal's office, journalists’ homes and authors'.
The raids triggered condemnation by media bodies in the country.
Authorities said the seizure and detentions were carried out in connection with a UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) case, the country’s anti-terror law, registered with Delhi Police.
A total of "37 male suspects have been questioned at premises, 09 female suspects have been questioned at their respective places of stay and digital devices, documents etc. have been seized/collected for examination," said police. "The proceedings are still ongoing; so far, two accused, Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty have been arrested.”
Prabir is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Newsclick website.
Police arrived at the homes of reporters and confiscated laptops and mobile phones, some of the journalists wrote on social media.
"Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and Phone," Abhisar Sharma wrote on X.
Social activist Shabnam Hashmi wrote that the police's special cell raided her brother, Sohail Hashmi, who is a historian, and questioned him for two hours.
"The cops have seized his computer, phone, hard disc and flash drives. His residence was one among many journalists whose houses were raided by the special cell early morning today," she said. "The stifling of democratic voices of journalists, intellectuals, artists and common civilians goes unabated under this government. In the name of legal proceedings what the common people face today is sheer intimidation, harassment and fear by the Indian state."
Journalist bodies and opposition parties have condemned the raids.
The Press Club of India, a Delhi-based top media body, expressed concern "about the multiple raids conducted on the houses of journalists and writers associated with ‘#Newsclick.’ We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement.”
The Editors Guild of India said it is “deeply concerned about the raids at the residences of senior journalists” and that it “urges the state to follow due process, and not to make draconian criminal laws as tools for press intimidation.”
Main opposition Indian National Congress party called the government's actions a "distraction."
"The early morning raids on contributing journalists at Newsclick comes 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," said senior party leader Pawan Khera, in reference to northern Bihar state announcing results Monday of its survey about castes in the state.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, however, said agencies conducting the investigation are independent and working as per law.
"I need not justify the raid. If someone has done something wrong, probe agencies work on it," Thakur told reporters in Bhubaneswar in the eastern state of Odisha.
The ANI news agency reported that the raids are based on a case "registered on 17th August under UAPA and other sections of the Indian Penal Code."
All of it follows a New York Times report that named NewsClick in August as one of the organizations funded by a network linked to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for pushing Chinese propaganda.
Earlier, India's financial crime agency conducted raids at media houses as part of a probe into their funding sources.
Last month, Amnesty International accused India of "exploiting the recommendations of a global terrorism financing and money laundering watchdog to target civil society groups and activists and deliberately hinder their work."
The government has repeatedly denied that there is any threat to media freedom.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.