ED raids continue at NewsClick office; journalists’ bodies condemn move, call the raid ‘ominous’
Sources close to the company said that the immediate trigger was the extensive coverage of the farmers’ protests by the media outlet as it had garnered several million views
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday raided the Delhi office and residences of the owners and journalists associated with the independent media portal NewsClick.in. The raids which began at 10 am were still on at 6.30 pm.
In addition to the office of the organisation in south Delhi’s Saidulajab, the homes of the owner Prabir Purkayastha, human resources head Amit Chakravartyand and editor Pranjal were also raided. The office has been closed for now.
In the afternoon, Pranjal had said, “There’s been a raid ongoing since morning. We were shown a notice and now, our documents are being checked”. It is not immediately known if their phones were confiscated.
While a couple of ED officials claimed that this was “just a routine check”, The Hindu reported that action was being undertaken to collect information to probe money laundering charges against the news company and its promoters. It was indicated that the probe was allegedly linked to suspected foreign funding.
However, sources close to the company said that the immediate trigger was the extensive coverage of the farmers’ protests by the media outlet as it had garnered several million views.
Soon after the news of the ED raid became public, the Delhi Union of Journalists condemned the same. “NewsClick has been providing a platform to leading journalists such as Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Abhisar Sharma and P Sainath, among others. It has also been reporting extensively on the farmers’ agitation for the past two months,” said the DUJ statement.
The Delhi Union of Journalists underscored that they view these raids as a serious attack on online media and freedom of the press. “Coming in the wake of the filing of sedition charges against several senior journalists last week and government moves to curb free speech on Twitter and YouTube, the raids are ominous. The aim is clearly to intimidate and browbeat independent and critical voices that disagree with the government on contemporary issues,” added the statement released by DUJ.
DIGIPUB News India Foundation, a group formed by digital media organisations, also released a statement strongly condemning the raids conducted by the ED. It stated that it believes the raids on the news website’s office, editors and founders are a clear attempt to suppress journalism.
“Such use of state agencies to intimidate journalists and suppress adversarial journalism is detrimental to not only the freedom of the press but also the very idea of democratic accountability. Everyone emerges poorer in the long run,” said the statement.
DIGIPUB has also demanded that the government stop the ED action against NewsClick and make it clear why the news organisation was raided to begin with.