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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Delhi Police gave us no FIR, neither reveal offences: NewsCLick on office raids

The website claimed it has been targeted by various central govt agencies since 2021 with its offices and houses of its staffers raided by the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police, and the Income Tax Department

PTI New Delhi Published 04.10.23, 04:22 PM
Sealed office of NewsClick at Sainik Farm following a raid by Delhi Police Special Cell officials in New Delhi.

Sealed office of NewsClick at Sainik Farm following a raid by Delhi Police Special Cell officials in New Delhi. PTI

NewsClick on Wednesday issued a statement on Delhi Police raids at its premises claiming it has not been provided a copy of FIR, or informed about the offences people associated with it have been charged with.

"Yesterday, raids were carried out by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police at various locations including Newsclick's offices, residences of journalists and employees. We have not been provided with a copy of the FIR, or informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which we have been charged," NewsClick said in a statement.

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The online news portal claimed that police seized electronic devices from its premises and houses of employees without any due process such as the provision of seizure memos, hash values of the seized data, or even copies of the data.

"Newsclick's office has also been sealed in a blatant attempt at preventing us from continuing our reporting," the statement read.

"We strongly condemn these actions of a Government that refuses to respect journalistic independence, and treats criticism as sedition or 'anti-national' propaganda," it added.

Civil society members held a demonstration at Delhi's Jantar Mantar and slammed the BJP-led Centre over the developments, while journalists from several media organisations also staged a protest near the Press Club of India (PCI).

Prominent journalists' bodies, including the Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC), PCI and Digipub News India Foundation, have sought the intervention of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud in the matter.

The website claimed it has been targeted by various central government agencies since 2021 with its offices and houses of its staffers raided by the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police, and the Income Tax Department.

"What we have been able to gather is that Newsclick stands accused of offences under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for purportedly carrying Chinese propaganda on its website. All devices, laptops, gadgets, phones, etc have been seized in the past. All emails and communications have been analysed under the microscope," the statement by NewsClick read.

It also claimed different government agencies have scrutinised its bank statements, invoices, expenses and sources of funds in the last several years.

"... yet, in the last two years, the ED has not been able to file a complaint accusing Newsclick of money laundering. The Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police has not been able to file a charge sheet against Newsclick for offences under the Indian Penal Code," neither the Income Tax Department has been able to defend its actions before the Courts of law, it said.

NewsClick said its founder Prabir Purkayastha has not even been called in for questioning by any of these agencies in the last several months.

It said NewsClick is an independent news website and that its journalistic content is based on "the highest standards" of the profession.

"Newsclick does not publish any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority, directly or indirectly. We do not propagate Chinese propaganda on its website and do not take directions from Neville Roy Singham regarding the content published on its website," the statement said.

It claimed its funding has come through appropriate banking channels and have been reported to the authorities.

"The Special Cell of Delhi Police has not referred to a single article or video that they consider to be Chinese propaganda. Indeed, the line of questioning adopted by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police – regarding reportage on the Delhi riots, the farmers protests etc, all demonstrate the motivated and malicious intent behind the present proceedings," NewsClick alleged.

NewsClick founder Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakravarty, arrested in a case filed under the anti-terror law UAPA following allegations the portal received money for pro-China propaganda, were sent to seven days of police remand, officials said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a city court has issued a notice to the Delhi police on a plea moved by Purkayastha and Chakravarty.

The court agreed to hand over a copy of the remand application filed by the police to advocate Arshdeep Singh Khurana, the counsel for the accused.

Khurana requested the court for the copy of the FIR so that he could move the Delhi High Court for the legal remedies available to the accused.

The court also allowed the counsel to meet the accused for an hour daily during the remand period.

The protest called by the Left-affiliated All India Students' Association (AISA) at Jantar Mantar saw the participation of journalists, students and some citizens.

The students' outfit called the raids an "attack on press freedom" and demanded the immediate release of those arrested.

Carrying banners that read "We will neither bend nor crawl", "Release Prabir Purkayastha" and "Stop attack on press freedom", the students' outfit voiced its dissent against the police action.

The family members of historian Sohail Hashmi, whose house was also raided by police on Tuesday, participated in the protest.

"These attempts will not deter us from standing for what is right," his sister, Shabnam Hashmi, said.

Addressing a gathering at the protest site, AISA's Delhi state secretary Neha alleged that the government action is a blatant attack on the democratic values of India.

"The government is targeting the journalists who raised their voice in support of the farmers' issue. We condemn this attack on the press freedom in the country," she said.

In related developments, journalist bodies sought the CJI's intervention in the matter.

A letter addressed to CJI Chandrachud was signed by organisations, such as the Digipub News India Foundation, IWPC and PCI, among others.

The journalist bodies said a large number of scribes in the country find themselves working under the threat of reprisal.

"And it is imperative that the judiciary confronts power with the fundamental truth that there is a Constitution to which all of us are answerable," they said.

They demanded framing of norms to discourage seizure of journalists' phones and laptops on a whim, evolving guidelines for the interrogation of journalists and seizures from them, to ensure that these are not undertaken as fishing expeditions with no bearing to actual offences and finding ways to ensure the accountability of State agencies.

The press bodies cited the raids conducted on Tuesday on the houses of 46 journalists, editors, writers and professionals associated with NewsClick.

Scores of journalists staged a protest near the PCI. Addressing the gathering, journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta shared his experience of being questioned by police.

"The entire staff of the Special Cell asked me many questions. However, their behaviour was very decent," he said.

Representatives of the National Union of Journalists (India) met Delhi Police Commissioner Sanjay Arora and handed over a letter to him.

"A section of the media and some political parties are trying to create an atmosphere of fear by terming it an attack on the media regarding the issue of Chinese funding," the letter read.

It said the NUJ(I) believes that some news portals running through foreign funding are becoming "factories of fake news".

Officials earlier said 46 "suspects" were questioned and digital devices, including laptops and mobile phones, besides documents taken away for examination.

The searches began on Tuesday morning and were concentrated in Delhi-NCR.

Among those questioned were journalists Urmilesh, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Abhisar Sharma, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta as well as historian Sohail Hashmi, satirist Sanjay Rajoura and D Raghunandan of the Centre for Technology and Development.

After being questioned for more than six hours, they were allowed to go.

Officials earlier said 46 "suspects" were questioned and digital devices, including laptops and mobile phones, and documents were taken away for examination.

The searches began in the morning and were concentrated in the Delhi-NCR.

Among those questioned were journalists Urmilesh, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Abhisar Sharma, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta as well as historian Sohail Hashmi, satirist Sanjay Rajoura and D Raghunandan of the Centre for Technology & Development.

After being questioned for over six hours, they were allowed to go.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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