Editor and Administrator of Independent News Site Arrested in New Delhi Following Raids

by Ethan Kim

New Delhi, India – In a significant development, the editor and an administrator of a prominent independent news website have been apprehended by New Delhi police. The arrests took place after a series of raids on the residences of journalists affiliated with the platform, known for its critical stance towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist-led government.

Late Tuesday evening, the arrests unfolded, with several journalists associated with NewsClick being detained and their digital devices confiscated. This operation was part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of financial misconduct, specifically whether the website had received funds from China. NewsClick has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in this regard.

Suman Nalwa, a police spokesperson, stated that these arrests were carried out under a comprehensive anti-terrorism law. This law has been controversially employed by the government to suppress dissent and detain activists, journalists, and critics of Modi, some of whom have spent considerable time behind bars awaiting trial. The individuals apprehended are Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor of NewsClick, and Amit Chakravarty, the head of human resources.

Nalwa further revealed that at least 46 individuals were subjected to questioning during the extensive raids. Their personal devices, including laptops and cellphones, as well as documents, were confiscated for further examination. This group comprised both current and former employees, freelance contributors, and even cartoonists.

Founded in 2009, NewsClick has gained notoriety as one of the few Indian news outlets unafraid to criticize Prime Minister Modi. Notably, it had previously been subjected to raids by Indian financial enforcement authorities in 2021, though a court subsequently prohibited any “coercive measures” against the website.

The latest legal action against NewsClick was initiated by Indian authorities on August 17, shortly after a report by The New York Times alleged that the website had received funds from an American millionaire involved in promoting “Chinese propaganda.” In the same month, India’s junior minister for information and broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, accused NewsClick of advancing an “anti-India agenda” based on the New York Times report, and of collaborating with the opposition Indian National Congress party. Both NewsClick and the Congress party have vehemently refuted these allegations.

Media watchdogs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, have decried the arrests and raids, viewing them as part of a wider crackdown on independent media under Modi’s administration. Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, emphasized the importance of allowing journalists to work without fear of intimidation or reprisal, calling this incident the “latest attack on press freedom in India.”

The Editors Guild of India expressed concern that these raids were intended to foster an atmosphere of intimidation under the shadow of stringent laws.

Notably, earlier this year, authorities conducted searches at the New Delhi and Mumbai offices of the BBC, accusing the organization of tax evasion shortly after it aired a documentary in Britain that examined Prime Minister Modi’s role in anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

India has witnessed investigations into several news organizations for alleged financial impropriety during Modi’s tenure. Independent media in the country frequently contends with censorship, harassment, and the risk of arrests while fulfilling their journalistic duties.

India’s anti-terrorism law entails strict bail conditions, resulting in individuals often languishing in custody for months or even years without being convicted. This law has seen increased usage in recent years by successive Indian governments.

Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, ranked India 161st in its press freedom rankings, describing the situation as having deteriorated from “problematic” to “very bad.”

Furthermore, some independent Indian think tanks and international organizations like Amnesty International and Oxfam India have experienced raids and had their access to funding blocked in recent times.

In response to the raids on NewsClick, journalist Abhisar Sharma, whose home was searched and electronic devices seized, asserted his commitment to his work. In a resolute statement on X (formerly known as Twitter), he declared, “Nothing to fear. And I will keep questioning people in power and particularly those who are afraid of simple questions.”

The raids on NewsClick have also sparked criticism from India’s political opposition. Shashi Tharoor, an opposition lawmaker, stated, “These are not the actions of a ‘mother of democracy’ but of an insecure and autocratic state. The government has disgraced itself and our democracy today.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Arrests

What led to the arrests of the editor and administrator of NewsClick?

The arrests of the editor and administrator of NewsClick were a result of extensive raids conducted by New Delhi police. These raids were part of an investigation into whether the news website had received funds from China, leading to allegations of financial misconduct.

What is the basis for the arrests under the anti-terrorism law?

The arrests were made under a wide-ranging anti-terrorism law in India. This law has been controversially used by the government to suppress dissent and detain activists, journalists, and critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It provides a legal framework for such arrests in cases deemed to be related to terrorism or national security.

Why is NewsClick significant in India’s media landscape?

NewsClick, founded in 2009, is known for its willingness to criticize Prime Minister Modi, making it a rare Indian news outlet in this regard. It has gained prominence for its independent and critical reporting on political and social issues in India.

How have media watchdogs and the Editors Guild of India responded to these arrests and raids?

Media watchdogs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, have condemned these actions, considering them part of an increasing crackdown on independent media in India. The Editors Guild of India expressed concerns that the raids were aimed at creating an atmosphere of intimidation under stringent laws.

What is the broader context of press freedom in India?

Press freedom in India has faced challenges in recent years, with independent media often encountering censorship, harassment, and arrests while performing their journalistic duties. India’s ranking in press freedom has deteriorated, according to Reporters Without Borders, and laws such as the anti-terrorism law have been increasingly used to restrict media freedoms.

Have other news organizations faced similar actions by Indian authorities?

Yes, several news organizations in India have been investigated for alleged financial impropriety during Prime Minister Modi’s government. Notably, the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai were searched over accusations of tax evasion.

How do individuals arrested under India’s anti-terrorism law fare in terms of bail conditions?

India’s anti-terrorism law imposes stringent requirements for bail, resulting in individuals often spending months or even years in custody without being convicted. This has been a subject of concern for human rights advocates.

What is the international perception of press freedom in India?

Reporters Without Borders ranked India 161st in its press freedom rankings, noting a deterioration in the situation from “problematic” to “very bad.” This reflects concerns about the state of press freedom in the country.

How have international organizations like Amnesty International and Oxfam India been affected?

International organizations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam India have also faced raids and had their access to funding blocked in recent years, further raising concerns about the environment for civil society organizations in India.

How have the individuals targeted in these raids responded?

Individuals targeted in these raids, including journalist Abhisar Sharma, have shown resilience and commitment to their work, vowing not to be deterred by such actions. Abhisar Sharma, for instance, declared his intent to continue questioning those in power.

What is the political opposition’s stance on these arrests and raids?

Members of the political opposition in India have criticized these actions, characterizing them as indicative of an insecure and autocratic state. They argue that these actions have a detrimental effect on democracy in the country.

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FreeSpeechAdvocate October 4, 2023 - 10:44 am

sad to see attacks on press, journalists should be able to do their jobs without fear!

PoliticalJunkie October 4, 2023 - 4:01 pm

Opposition speaking out, seems like this is a political move, not just legal

JournalismFan October 4, 2023 - 8:37 pm

press freedom issues rly scary, need more info on how govt justifies this

InfoNerd October 4, 2023 - 8:48 pm

India’s rank in press freedom gone down, not good sign for democracy

CuriousCat October 5, 2023 - 1:01 am

interesting how BBC also got searched, what’s the story there?

VoiceOfReason October 5, 2023 - 1:30 am

they always target independent media, it’s about control

Reader123 October 5, 2023 - 1:35 am

wow! this is a huge news!! why they arrest the editor & admin?? is this law they use too harsh?


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