India police raid media office, journalists' homes in illegal funding probe

Indian police raid NewsClick and journalists' homes in foreign funding probe, raising media freedom concerns

Reuters October 03, 2023
The raids were part of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, India's financial crime agency. PHOTO: AFP


Indian police raided the New Delhi office of a news portal and the homes of journalists and writers linked to it on Tuesday as part of an investigation into suspected illegal foreign funding of the media company, two government officials said.

Laptops and mobile phones were taken away as part of the investigation into online news channel NewsClick, the officials and some of the journalists said.

"A special investigations team launched a search operation to identify all those individuals who were possibly getting funds from overseas to run a media group with the main agenda of spreading foreign propaganda," said an official in the interior ministry overseeing the raids by the Delhi Police.

The raids were part of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, India's financial crime agency, into suspected money laundering by NewsClick, the official said.

Another ministry official said the raids were conducted at the homes of more than a dozen journalists and other writers linked to NewsClick.

"We have not arrested anyone and the search operations are still underway," the second official said.

Both officials declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media. A Delhi Police spokesperson said he was not in a position to comment.

NewsClick officials were not immediately available for comment. The company's website says it reports on news from India and elsewhere with a focus on "progressive movements".

Read also: India's Manipur charges four journalists with misrepresenting violence in the state

Officials said the investigation began after a New York Times report in August named NewsClick as part of a global network receiving funds from American billionaire Neville Roy Singham, allegedly to publish Chinese propaganda.

NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha said at the time the allegations were not new and that the organisation would respond to them in court.

The Press Club of India said it was deeply concerned about the raids.

A statement from the INDIA alliance, a coalition of 28 opposition political parties, said that in the last nine years, the government has deliberately persecuted and suppressed the media by using investigative agencies.

The "coercive" actions of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are "directed against only those media organisations and journalists that speak truth to power", the coalition said.

A spokesperson from Modi's ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said raids were justified as foreign funding to media groups must be assessed by investigating agencies.

India has fallen to 161th in the World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, from 150th last year, its lowest ever. Modi's government rejects the group's findings, questioning its methodology, and says India has a vibrant and free press.


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