The Delhi Police’s decision to raid the houses of journalists working for the Newsclick website has caused outrage on social media. Opposition parties and netizens have reacted in anger, calling the development a direct attack on free media under the Centre’s Narendra Modi government. Journalists whose houses were raided under sedition charges and their mobile phones and laptops confiscated included Abhisar Sharma, Pranjoy Guha Thakurta, Sanjay Rajoura, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Prabir Purkayastha, Aunindyo Chakraborty and Sohail Hashmi among others.
All these journalists are known for their critical views on the Modi government.
Sharma tweeted, “Delhi police landed at my home. Taking away my laptop and Phone…”
Newsclick was raided by the Modi government’s tax agencies even in the past. However, the website came under sharp scrutiny after an article published in the New York Times implied that the website was funded by Chinese authorities through an individual called Neville Roy Singham to allegedly push the Chinese agenda.
The news of some of India’s well-known journalists being taken for questioning and their electronic devices seized sent shockwaves on Tuesday.
Delhi University professor, Apoorvanand, tweeted, “Critics of the government being raided. There is no other way to describe what is being done to Anindyo, Urmilesh, Bhasha, Abhisar, Paronjoy,Sohail Hashmi, Raghunandan, Sanjay Rajaura, Teesta, Tricontinentol.”
Journalist Poornima Joshi wrote, “Urmilesh is one of most well-informed, scholarly journalists. His book ‘Bihar Ka Sach’ is a brilliant treatise. It’s absolutely shocking that a country should treat scholars, intellectuals like common criminals.”
Journalist Kaushik Raj tweeted, “Still can’t get over the fact that they raided and seized devices of independent contributors to Newsclick. Sanjay Rajoura is a standup comedian who did satirical shows for Newsclick. Urmilesh also contributes as an independent journalist. Really worrying trend being set.”
The alliance of India’s opposition parties, INDIA, also issued a statement condemning the development.
Editors Guild of India too issued a statement expressing its concern over the action against Newsclick journalists. It wrote, “EGI is deeply concerned about the raids at the residences of senior journalists on the morning of October 3, and the subsequent detention of many of those journalists. Urges the state to follow due process, and not to make draconian criminal laws as tools for press intimidation.”
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan told news agency PTI, “I think that the action of the Delhi police against these independent journalists is totally illegal, very high-handed, and an attempt to intimidate the independent media who are critical of the present establishment.”