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A screenshot of the Newsclick logo. | Newsclick.in

Modi government attacks the media

Originally published: Scroll.in by Scroll Staff (February 10, 2021)

Online portal Newsclick on Wednesday released a statement on the raids at its office in Delhi, a day after the Enforcement Directorate took the action in connection with an alleged money laundering case. Raids were also conducted at the residence of the website’s Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha.

“Since the morning of February 9, officials of Enforcement Directorate have been searching through Newsclick’s office and at homes of senior persons in order to find evidence for what are alleged to be financial irregularities, as reported by media,” the statement, titled Govt Raids on Newsclick: Our Voice Can’t be Muzzled, read.

The raids are still ongoing at the time of writing, some 30 hours after they started.

The news portal said that it has cooperated with the authorities and will continue to do so, adding that if the central agency and the government were “truthful and follow the course of law” no wrongdoing would be revealed. “Newsclick has nothing to hide,” the statement said.

“It has become a routine practice with the present government to deploy government-controlled agencies to deal with all those who disagree with and criticize the government,” the news website said.

In the past, the income tax department, the ED, various Central investigative agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation and National Investigation Agency, have been selectively used in this manner against a range of people–from journalists to political leaders, to even farmers’ leaders.

The news portal said that the legal instruments–including filing of sedition and defamation cases, and charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act–available to the Centre were used for “politically motivated coercive actions”. “The present raid at Newsclick appears to be on the same lines, and its purpose appears to be the same: To cow down an independent and progressive voice through a vindictive course of action,” the statement said.

Newsclick said that it will carry on with its reports and record unheard voices that were struggling to build a life of dignity and well-being. “Efforts such as these raids, to suppress protests and indeed, any striving for progressive thought, will not deter those who stand for justice,” it added. The news portal also acknowledged the messages of support and solidarity that it has received from all corners.

Media bodies condemn raids

The Editors Guild of India expressed “deep concern” about the raids at the Newclick office and at the residences of its senior journalists. “In the recent past the website has been at the frontline of reporting on the farmers agitation, the anti-CAA protests, and has been critical of various government policies and of a few powerful corporates houses,” the statement said.

The association said that the raids by government agencies should not be used as “coercive measures to suppress free and independent journalism”. “The Guild demands that care be taken to not undermine the news operations of Newsclick and that it’s journalists and stakeholders are not harassed under the garb of such measures,” the statement said.

The Press Club of India called the raids an “unsavoury attack on the media in a bid to intimidate and silence critical journalism”. “Publicising the charge of alleged money laundering against a small, public-spirited, news company is no way to defend democratic values and institutions, which the government proclaims to be doing, especially on the world stage,” the media body said.

It also noted a series of attacks on prominent journalists and on not so well-known ones, and said it has “regrettably become the hallmark of the government”. “In the past one year, numerous FIRs have been registered against journalists on the plainly specious and false charge of sedition and incitement of communal disharmony,” the statement read.

The PCI has seen it as a duty to record its protest in all such matters.

The media body also said that inquiries against the charges against journalists or such groups engaged in ground-level work to “expose communal agenda and poor people issues” do not make headway. It added that the investigations also do not withstand judicial scrutiny, and end up giving the government a “bad name”.

“The PCI asks the government to end raid raj and false allegations raj against the media and take visible steps to ensure democratic freedoms such as free speech and right to liberty,” it concluded.

‘Yet another attack on independent media’: CPI(M)

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday condemned the raids at the Newsclick office. “The ED action is a blatant attempt to intimidate and suppress an independent news portal,” it said.

Newsclick has been providing credible and wide coverage of the farmers protests.

The party also claimed that the central agencies were being used to “harass and silence independent media”.

The CPI(M) demands an end to the vindictive action against Newsclick and its management.

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