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Indian police executed raids on the office of a prominent news portal and the residences of journalists and writers associated with it. The operation is part of an ongoing investigation into alleged illegal foreign funding of the media company, according to two government officials.
During the raids, law enforcement officers seized laptops and mobile phones as part of the probe into NewsClick, the media organization under scrutiny. An official from the interior ministry, overseeing the Delhi Police’s actions, stated, “A special investigations team launched a search operation to identify all those individuals who were possibly getting funds from overseas to run a media group with the main agenda of spreading foreign propaganda.”
These searches are integral to an inquiry by India’s financial crime agency, the Enforcement Directorate, which is delving into potential money laundering activities related to NewsClick, as confirmed by the official. Another official from the ministry revealed that these operations extended to over a dozen residences of journalists and certain other writers associated with NewsClick.
As of now, no arrests have been made, and the search operations are ongoing, clarified the second official. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they lacked authorization to communicate with the media. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Delhi Police refrained from commenting on the matter at this stage.
While NewsClick has not yet issued a statement in response to the raids, its website describes the organization as an independent media entity established in 2009, dedicated to reporting news from India and beyond, with a particular focus on “progressive movements.”
The investigation’s origins trace back to a New York Times report from August, which implicated NewsClick as part of a global network allegedly receiving funds from American billionaire Neville Roy Singham, purportedly for the dissemination of Chinese propaganda. Prabir Purkayastha, the founder of NewsClick, responded to these allegations at the time, asserting that they were not novel and that the organization would address them through the legal system.
Expressing deep concern, the Press Club of India weighed in on the raids, highlighting the broader implications for press freedom.
India’s standing in the World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking compiled by the non-profit Reporters Without Borders, has declined to 150th place, down from 140th in the previous year, marking its lowest-ever position. The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has contested these findings, raising questions about the methodology employed by the organization and affirming India’s vibrant and independent press.