NewsClick founder Prabir 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.
Police on Tuesday searched for more than 30 locations, questioned several journalists in connection with the case and arrested Purkayastha and Chakravarty, reports PTI.
A senior officer said both were produced before a court which remanded them in police custody.
Police sealed NewsClick's office in Delhi on Tuesday. 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.
Sources in the Delhi police, who report to the Union home ministry, said this was the first time a media outlet had been booked under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. NewsClick had in 2021 been raided by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the income-tax authorities.
A police officer said: “The case was registered in August under the UAPA and other sections of the IPC, including Section 153A (promoting enmity between two groups) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).”
In August this year, a New York Times investigation had alleged that NewsClick was among organisations funded by a network tied to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham that pushes Chinese propaganda.
Purkayastha had responded, saying: “These are not new allegations. They have been made in the past. We will respond to them in the appropriate forum, i.e., the court, as the matter is sub-judice.”
Condemnation of the raids was swift, sharp and widespread. An impromptu gathering of journalists at the Press Club of India resolved to hold a demonstration on Wednesday and write to the Chief Justice of India. This was endorsed by all major journalists’ groups.
The Editors Guild of India said: “The raids are reportedly being conducted in connection with an FIR filed under the draconian UAPA and laws
relating to criminal conspiracy and disruption of communal harmony against
journalists, including those associated with the website Newsclick.in.”
The Editors Guild of India added: "EGI is concerned that these raids are yet another attempt to muzzle the media. While we recognise that the law must take its course if actual offences are involved, the (sic) due process has to be followed. The investigation of specific offences must not create a general atmosphere of intimidation under the shadow of draconian laws, or impinge on the freedom of expression and the raising of dissenting and critical voices.”
The INDIA bloc condemned the police action as the “BJP government’s fresh attack on the media”.
The bloc said: “Both the government and its ideologically aligned organisations have resorted to reprisals against individual journalists who spoke truth to power. Furthermore, the BJP government has also spearheaded regressive policies like the Information Technology Rules 2021 that constrict the media from reporting objectively. In doing so, the BJP is not only hiding its sins of omission and commission from the people of India. It is also compromising India’s global standing as a mature democracy.