The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) condemns the brazen attempts of the government to intimidate and browbeat the online media portals, namely Newslaundry and Newsclick, through repeated raids on their premises. It also severely condemned the select ransacking and torching of media offices by politically motivated mobs as seen recently in Tripura.
In a statement today DUJ President S.K.Pande and General Secretary Sujata Madhok said today :“The Delhi office of Newslaundry, known for its sharp, critical eye on all matters related to both the media and the government, was raided on 10.1.2021 by the Income Tax Department. Simultaneously a raid was conducted on the Delhi office of Newsclick.
The officials went to the house of the Newsclick owner/editor Prabir Purkayastha, seized his phone and other material and escorted him to the Newsclick office for further enquiries. Email dumps and assorted financial accounts were seized. The Income Tax authorities claimed these were ‘surveys’ not raids, although they lasted from morning to midnight and employees’ were deprived of their phones and not allowed to leave the premises.”
The statement noted that Newsclick was earlier raided by the Enforcement Directorate in February 2021 when the raid went on 24/7 for one whole week in the house of Purkayastha. Income Tax officials also interrogated Purkayastha and the editor Pranjal in June. Newclick has taken the authorities to court in connection with the allegations levelled at the organisation.
Purkayastha has issued a statement saying, “We shall not be intimidated. We will continue to do our work, and speak truth to power”.
Abinandan Sekhri of Newslaundry has said that data was copied from his phone and laptop and he was refused access to his lawyer. He said the copying of data violated his privacy as his devices included family photos and medical data. No signed hash value was provided to him. Additionally, data from some office machines was downloaded by the IT team. Newslaundry had also been raided by the Income Tax department in June.
Sekhri has issued a statement saying, “We will also continue to practice public interest journalism which is why we exist.” He also states, “We are clean because, you know, ‘Newslaundry – sab ki dhulai’.
It may be recalled in July Income Tax officials had raided the countrywide offices of the leading Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar after its critical coverage of pandemic deaths in Uttar Pradesh.
The DUJ condemns all such attempts to browbeat media establishments and individual journalists. We question the filing of an FIR in Uttar Pradesh against the award-winning journalist Rana Ayyub for her fundraising campaign and relief work during the pandemic.
The violent attacks by BJP activists on five media houses in Tripura, PB 24, Pratibadi Kalam, Kalmer Shakti, Daily Desherkatha and Duranta TV, as well as two CPM party offices, on Sept.8 bodes ill for democracy. We demand immediate action against those who ransacked premises, torched some offices and set several media vehicles on fire. There should be immediate compensation for the loss of offices and equipment besides prosecution of those who led these mob attacks that set an extremely dangerous precedent.