New Delhi: Opposition parties and several journalist unions on Tuesday slammed the Centre over raids on journalists linked with NewsClick portal, alleging the “coercive” actions were directed only against those who speak truth to power, even as the government asserted that probe agencies are independent and work in accordance with law.
The Congress alleged the raids were a “fresh distraction” from the “explosive” findings of the caste survey in Bihar and the growing demand for a caste census across the country.
In a statement, Opposition bloc INDIA strongly condemned the raids and alleged the BJP government’s “coercive” actions are directed only against those who speak truth to power and not against those who spread hatred and divisiveness.
Various media organisations, including the Editors Guild of India, condemned the Delhi Police raids on news portal NewsClick and its scribes on Tuesday, with some claiming that it was an attempt to “muzzle” the press.
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) issued a statement saying it was deeply concerned about the raids at the residences of senior journalists early this morning. These raids are yet another attempt to “muzzle the media”, it said.
“We remind the government of the importance of an independent media in a functioning democracy, and urge it to ensure that the fourth pillar is respected, nurtured and protected,” the guild said.
However, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said probe agencies in the country are independent and work as per law.
“I need not justify the raid. 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, probe agencies cannot investigate that,” Thakur said in response to queries at a press conference in Bhubaneswar.
“The probe agencies are independent and they work as per the law.”
The 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.
The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) said in its statement that the government has also tried to convert the media into a mouthpiece for its partisan and ideological interests by allegedly facilitating the takeover of media organisations by crony capitalists.
“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 omissions and commission from the people of India, it is also compromising India’s global standing as a mature democracy,” the opposition alliance said in the statement.
“The BJP government’s coercive actions are invariably directed against only those media organisations and journalists that speak truth to power. Ironically, the BJP government is paralysed when it comes to taking action against those journalists inciting hatred and divisiveness in the nation,” it said. “We steadfastly stand with the media and for the constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and expression.”
In the last nine years, the BJP government has deliberately persecuted and suppressed the media by deploying investigative agencies to suppress the British Broadcasting Corporation, Newslaundry, Dainik Bhaskar, Bharat Samachar, the Kashmir Walla, the Wire etc., and most recently the journalists of NewsClick, the opposition parties said.
Separately also, several INDIA bloc parties slammed the government over the searchers.Congress’ media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said the early morning raids on contributing journalists at Newsclick comes 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.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor slammed the government over the raids, saying these are not the actions of a “mother of democracy” but of an “insecure and autocratic state”.
“Why does a government as strong and authoritarian as this one is, feeling threatened by a news website? And that too, one that is not even ranked very high in reach or readership? Intolerance is unworthy of everything that India represents,” Tharoor said.
“The government has disgraced itself and our democracy today,” he said in a post on X. The Aam Aadmi Party slammed the BJP-led Centre, saying it is “scared” of journalists. AAP chief national spokesperson Priyanka Kakkar alleged the Modi government is pretending to fight China by arresting its own journalists because it didn’t have the courage to engage with it directly.
Samajwadi party president Akhilesh Yadav flayed the action by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell. “The raids are a sign of the losing BJP. This is not a new thing.”He said the ruling BJP has 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), someone should also print it,” Yadav said in a post on X.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury condemned the raids, saying it is an “attack” on the fundamental right of freedom of expression. BSP MP Danish Ali said the “world is shocked” to see the “pathetic state” of the ‘mother of democracy’ where the journalists who refused to be the part of ‘Godi media’, are being raided and arrested.”The ‘most powerful’ government is not ready to tolerate a few honest journalists,” Ali said.Various organisations representing the interests of journalists also condemned the raids with some claiming these were attempt to “muzzle” the press.