Enforcement Directorate raid on portal facing Adani suit
The Enforcement Directorate has launched searches at NewsClick, a news portal that has been slapped with a Rs 100-crore defamation suit by the Adani group, and premises associated with its management since Tuesday morning.
The portal is known for its coverage of the peasants’ movement and investigative reports on big companies, notably the Adani group which filed the defamation suit last year for two articles.
The Opposition as well as the protesting farmers suspect that the Adanis would be among the biggest beneficiaries of the three controversial farm laws.
There is nothing to suggest that the ED raids, which stretched past 11pm, are linked to the defamation suit.
The ED, which usually probes money laundering allegations, has not formally disclosed any details of the investigations that led the central agency to the doors of NewsClick in south Delhi’s Said-ul-Ajaib.
The homes of NewsClick’s editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and editor Pranjal Pandey in Saket as well as HR head Amit Chakraborty and technology columnist Bappaditya Sinha in Chittaranjan Park were searched.
Purkayastha, Pandey and Sinha are associated with the CPM. Purkayastha heads the Free Software Movement of India and was a founding member of the Delhi Science Forum, a CPM-backed society to popularise science and a think tank of science policy. He was jailed as an SFI activist during the Emergency and is a member of Delhi University’s Court, the apex review body of the varsity.
Sinha was the party’s representative at the Election Commission of India’s “EVM Challenge” in 2017.
CPM politburo member Subhashini Ali tweeted: “The ED’s raid on Newsclick’s office and Prabir Purkayastha’s house is a result of fearless journalism. The popularity of Newsclick has increased greatly as a result of the tremendous coverage of the peasant movement.”
The raids began at 10am and since then, NewsClick sources told The Telegraph, none of those searched or those who live with them could receive calls.
In the afternoon, Pandey and Chakraborty were taken by ED officials to the website’s office. Around 2.30pm, Pandey was allowed to give a short statement to journalists waiting outside. However, no cameras were permitted to be used by the officials.
Pandey said: “There has been an ongoing raid since morning. We were shown a notice. Right now, our documents are being checked. We are cooperating and will continue to cooperate.”
Later in the evening, the NewsClick website carried a statement: “Truth shall prevail. We have full faith in the legal system.”
ED officials have ordered dinner at the NewsClick office, and Pandey was allowed to call a friend to deliver medicine to him. Purkayastha and Sinha were brought by the ED to the Said-ul-Ajaib office late at night.
The CPIML-Liberation, the Congress and several activists condemned the raids.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted: “Subjugate, Suppress & Stifle is the only mantra of Modi Govt as proved by ED raids on @newsclickin today. Modi Govt wants to tell the media, particularly @abhisar_sharma & Pranjal: ‘Bol ke lab kyun azad hain tere!’”
The verse is a pun on Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem Bol ke lab azad hain tere (Speak, that your lips are free.) Sharma is an anchor of the website’s videos.
Several global news outlets and the rights group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, have spoken out against the raids.
The news portal was one of the founders of the Digipub News India Foundation, an association of online news outlets, last year. The foundation called the raids “a clear attempt to suppress journalism critical of the government and its allies. 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.”