New Delhi, 22 July 2021: The Indian Journalists Union condemns the income tax raids at 30-odd locations of one of the largest Hindi media group, Dainik Bhaskar and another at Uttar Pradesh-based TV news channel Bharat Samachar today, for alleged “tax evasion”. The timing of the raids, specially after the second wave of Covid-19 smacks of sinister design of the authorities to stifle press freedom and intimidate critical media, said the Union.
Early this morning 100-odd men from IT Department raided 30 locations of Dainik Bhaskar in Indore, Bhopal, Delhi, Jaipur, Maharashtra and Gujarat as well as offices and homes of the group’s promoters. The Lucknow office and also Bharat Samachar Editor’s house was raided reportedly to “examine tax documents”, though these are seen more as linked to the channel highlight Covid mismanagement.
In a statement, IJU President and Former Member of Press Council of India, Geetartha Pathak and IJU Secretary General and Vice President of International Federation of Journalists, Sabina Inderjit said that while the authorities claim the raids were based on “conclusive evidence of tax fraud”, the timing needs to be made note of. A critical media, particularly during the second wave of Covid, has increasingly come under attack by the ruling dispensation by adopting various means, including now IT raids. Recall media outfits NewsClick and The Quint were raided in February 2021 and October 2018 respectively.
While the Union would refrain from commenting on the charges levelled against the Bhaskar group, a pertinent question worth asking the authorities is the timing of the raids. The Union said the IT department being used to harass critical and independent media strikes at the roots of press freedom and demanded the government must refrain from such nefarious manoeuvres.