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Delhi police slap case against NewsClick journalists under anti-terror law, raids on in 30 places

Over 30 locations searched, senior scribes questioned, but no arrests as yet; Opposition condemns govt move, says BJP is 'scared' of journalists

PTI New Delhi Published 03.10.23, 03:18 PM
Security personnel guard during raids by Delhi Police's Special Cell on the premises of NewsClick at Sainik Farm, in New Delhi.

Security personnel guard during raids by Delhi Police's Special Cell on the premises of NewsClick at Sainik Farm, in New Delhi. PTI picture.

Delhi Police's Special Cell on Tuesday searched 30 locations connected with online news portal NewsClick and its journalists in a case filed under the anti-terror law UAPA following allegations that it received money for pro-China propaganda.

Some journalists, including Urmilesh and Abhishar Sharma, were taken to the Lodhi Road Special Cell office for questioning. Sources said that they have posed a list of 25 questions to them.


"Questions pertained to details of their foreign travels, Shaheen Bagh protest, farmers Protest and others," a source said.

Police said no one has been arrested so far in the searches concentrated in the Delhi-NCR region. Founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha was taken to the NewsClick south Delhi office. A forensic team is also at NewsClick's south Delhi office.

Addressing a gathering in Bhubaneswar, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said probe agencies in the country are independent and work in accordance with law.

"... If someone has done something wrong, probe agencies work on it... Nowhere is it written that if you have got money through illegal manner or done something objectionable, then probe agencies cannot investigate that," Thakur said.

The Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, and the Samajwadi Party as well as the Press Club of India reacted to the searches and criticised the government for the action.

The Enforcement Directorate had earlier conducted raids at the firm's premises to probe its sources of funding. The Special Cell is now continuing the searches on the basis of inputs provided by the central agency, officials said.

The Special Cell has registered a new case under the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and started an investigation, they said.

Officials in the know said police seized laptops and mobile phones related to some NewsClick journalists.

A Special Cell team took journalist Abhisar Sharma with it after questioning him at his home in Noida Extension. The team seized gadgets like mobile phones and the laptop of the journalist landing at his home in the morning.

Delhi Police sources said the raids, which started early Tuesday morning, are based on a case registered in August under UAPA and other sections of IPC, including Section 153A (promoting enmity between two groups), 120B (criminal conspiracy).

Before he was detained, Abhisar Sharma wrote on X, "Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and phone." Another journalist, Bhasha Singh, wrote on X, "Finally last tweet from this phone. Delhi police seizure (sic) my phone." Among those raided were historian Sohail Hashmi.

His sister, Shabnam Hashmi, posted on X, "Today, early morning at 6 am, Delhi Police's special cell raided Sohail Hashmi's residence. 6 people barged into the house and the bedroom." She alleged that the team questioned him for two hours and seized his computer, phone, hard disc and flash drives.

Waiting outside the Special Cell office, Gaurav Yadav, an advocate of NewsClicks journalist Urmilesh, who is also being questioned, said, "We have been here since 10 am and have been trying to meet our clients. However, we have not been able to meet them, neither have we been provided with any documents, nor did we get the copy of the FIR." Congress' media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said the early morning raids on contributing journalists at NewsClick come as a "fresh distraction from the explosive findings of caste census in Bihar and the growing demand for caste census across the country." "When he faces questions from out of syllabus, he resorts to the only counter he has in his predictable syllabus - DISTRACTION," Khera said on X.

Samajwadi party president Akhilesh Yadav flayed the raids, terming them as a sign of a "losing BJP." "The raids are a sign of the losing BJP. This is not a new thing, BJP rulers have always raided honest journalists. But how many crores of rupees are being given to 'Mitra channels' every month in the name of government 'prachar-prasar' (advertisements), anyone should also print this," Yadav said in a post on X.

The AAP slammed the BJP-led Centre over raids, saying it is "scared" of journalists.

AAP chief national spokesperson Priyanka Kakkar alleged that the Modi government is pretending to fight China by arresting journalists because it didn't have the courage to engage with it directly.

The Press Club of India on X said it is deeply concerned about raids on the houses of journalists and writers associated with NewsClick.

"We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement. The PCI stands in solidarity with the journalists and demands the government to come out with details," it said.

In August, the Delhi High Court sought Purkayastha's stand on a plea by the city police seeking vacation of an earlier order granting him interim protection from arrest in an unlawful foreign funding case.

The website recently hit the headlines for allegedly receiving money from US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for pro-China propaganda in India.

Citing an investigation by The New York Times, Thakur had recently claimed that NewsClick's money trail revealed an "anti-India agenda".

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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