NewsClick Funding Investigation: Delhi Police Raids Homes of Journalists, Authors - The Top Society

NewsClick Funding Investigation: Delhi Police Raids Homes of Journalists, Authors

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Delhi police have conducted raids on the residences of several prominent journalists and authors early Tuesday morning, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing investigation into the funding of the independent news website, NewsClick.

During these raids, law enforcement officers seized mobile phones and laptops from those targeted, intensifying the probe into allegations that NewsClick received illicit funds from China. It’s crucial to note that NewsClick has vehemently denied these accusations.

NewsClick, a platform known for its critical stance toward the government, was established in 2009. This is not the first time the organization has faced legal scrutiny, as it was previously raided by tax authorities in 2021 on charges of violating India’s foreign direct investment rules.

The current raids stem from a case registered against NewsClick in August, following a report by The New York Times. The report alleged that the website had received financial support from an American millionaire, Neville Roy Singham, to propagate “Chinese propaganda.” According to the report, Singham was closely tied to the “Chinese government media machine” and used nonprofit groups and shell companies to finance global propaganda efforts.

These developments have ignited fierce debate, with critics accusing the authorities of infringing on press freedom and raising concerns about government interference in media operations.

Among those targeted in the raids was comedian Mr. Rajoura, who has contributed satirical videos to NewsClick in the past. His lawyer, Ilin Saraswat, confirmed that police arrived at his residence at 06:30 local time, confiscating his laptop, two phones, DVDs of his previous work, and various documents.

“The police said that Mr Rajoura is not named in the current investigation, but since he has worked with the website, he will be interrogated. We have not been provided a copy of the police complaint,” he added.

Since assuming office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has initiated investigations into several media organizations over financial irregularities, sparking concerns about the state of press freedom in the world’s largest democracy.

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Earlier this year, tax authorities conducted searches by BBC in India, questioned staff about the organization’s business operations within the country. These searches occurred in Delhi and Mumbai shortly after the broadcaster aired a documentary in the UK critical of Mr. Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

In a separate incident in 2021, tax officials also levied accusations of tax evasion against the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper due to its critical coverage of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, has ranked India 161st in its press freedom index for the current year. They have noted a concerning decline in the country’s press freedom, shifting from a “problematic” status to “very bad.” This ranking places India alongside nations like Tajikistan (153rd) and Turkey (165th) in terms of press freedom concerns.

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