New Delhi: 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 but no one has been arrested so far in the searches concentrated in the Delhi-NCR region, officials said. Founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha was taken to the NewsClick south Delhi office.
Addressing a gathering in Bhubaneswar, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said probe agencies in the country are independent and work in accordance with law.
“… 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, then probe agencies cannot investigate that,” Thakur said.
The Congress and the Samajwadi Party as well as the Press Club of India also reacted to the searches and criticised the government for the action.
The Enforcement Directorate had earlier conducted raids at the firm’s premises to probe its sources of funding. The Special Cell is now continuing the searches on the basis of inputs provided by the central agency, officials said.
The Special Cell has registered a new case under the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and started an investigation, they said.
Officials in the know said police recovered dump data from laptops and mobile phones of some NewsClick journalists.
A Special Cell team took journalist Abhisar Sharma with it after questioning him at his home in Noida Extension. The team seized gadgets like mobile phones and laptop of the journalist landing at his home in the morning.
Delhi Police sources said the raids, which started early Tuesday morning, are based on a case registered in August under UAPA and other sections of IPC, including Section 153A (promoting enmity between two groups), 120B (criminal conspiracy).
Before he was detained, Abhisar Sharma wrote on X, “Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and phone.” Another journalist, Bhasha Singh, wrote on X, “Finally last tweet from this phone. Delhi police seizure (sic) my phone.” Among those raided were historian Sohail Hashmi it is learnt.
Taking to social media platform X, his sister Shabnam Hashmi said, “Today, early morning at 6 am, Delhi Police’s special cell raided Sohail Hashmi’s residence. 6 people barged into the house and the bedroom.” She alleged that he was questioned him for two hours and claimed that police personnel have seized his computer, phone, hard disc and flash drives.
Congress’ media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said the early morning raids on contributing journalists at Newsclick come 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.
Samajwadi Party leader Abbas Haider alleged that it is unfortunate and dangerous for the democracy “I believe BJP is trying to demolish the fourth pillar of democracy, which is the media. It is unfortunate and dangerous for our democracy. We are standing with the journalists,” said Haider.
The Press Club of India on X said it is deeply concerned about raids on the houses of journalists and writers associated with NewsClick.
“We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement. The PCI stands in solidarity with the journalists and demands the government to come out with details,” it said.
In August, the Delhi High Court sought Puryakastha’s stand on a plea by the city police seeking vacation of an earlier order granting him interim protection from arrest in an unlawful foreign funding case.
The website recently hit the headlines for allegedly receiving money from US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for pro-China propaganda in India.
Citing an investigation by The New York Times, Thakur had recently claimed that NewsClick’s money trail revealed an “anti-India agenda”. PTI SSH NIT SLB KIS BUN.