On October 3, a special cell of the Delhi Police had conducted simultaneous raids on the office of Newsclick and the journalists associated with it. The raids spread across five cities and atleast 35 locations, with the police confiscating the laptops and mobile phones of journalists, freelancers, writers, and satirists, having worked with the news portal in the past or present. The crackdown had concluded with the ‘suspects’ being interrogated for more than eight hours and the NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakravarty being arrested. The two have now been sent to police custody for seven days. The allegations present in the said case, filed under the UAPA, are that the news portal received money for pro-China propaganda.
Pursuant to the raids and sealing of the Newsclick office, on October 4, a statement was released by Newsclick wherein they firmly condemned the action undertaken by the Government “that refuses to respect journalistic independence, and treats criticism as sedition or “anti-national” propaganda.” They provided that no FIR has been submitted to them and the electronic devices seized from the houses of journalists without any adherence to law.
The complete statement can be read here.
A copy of the FIR was supplied to the Newsclick on October 5 on the order of the Delhi Court.
Since the news of massive searches surfaced multiple protests have been organised and statements of solidarity have been extended. Students, journalists, media organisations, politicians, etc. spanning across the length and breadth of the country expressed their anguish and surprise at the crackdown, and took to streets and social media to show camaraderie with the ones that were (and still are) targetted. For those protesting, the searches were clearly aimed at suppressing dissent and controlling the remaining independent media houses that are critical of the Modi government.
- Protest at Jantar Mantar
On October 4, a protest was called by All India Students’ Association (AISA) at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. The said protest saw the participation of a large group of civil society members- journalists, students and citizens. Protestors could be seen carrying banners at the protest, bearing the messages “We will neither bend nor crawl”, “Release Prabir Purkayastha” and “Stop attack on press freedom”. As per reports, the said protest saw the participation of more than 500 people.
Shabnam Hashmi, sister of historian Sohail Hashmi whose house was also raided by the Delhi Police was quoted by the Print as saying, “These attempts will not deter us from standing for what is right.”
Furthermore, Neha, secretary of the AISA’s Delhi unit, had addressed the protest gathering and stated that “This is a blatant attack on the democratic values of India. The government is targeting the journalists who raised their voice in support of the farmers’ issue. We condemn this attack on press freedom in the country.” She had further called for a citizens’ collective effort to fight back against the illegal police action.
- Protest outside the Press Club of India
On October 4, several journalists expressed their angst and protested at the office of Press Club of India to show solidarity. The said protest saw the participation of Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who was himself interrogated as a part of the raids for being a contributor at Newsclick, MK Venu, Siddharth Varadarajan, author Ramchandra Guha, Mukul Kesavan and author Arundhati Roy. The protesting journalists had held banners demanding press freedom and end to misuse of anti-terror laws against independent and free thinking journalist.
Journalist Thakurta had also shared his experience with the questioning and behaviour of the police. “The entire staff of Delhi’s Special Cell asked me a set of many questions. However, their behaviour was very decent. They asked me if I needed tea and ordered lunch for me as well. As for the two — Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty —who have been arrested, I feel the police also behave in a decent way with them,” Thakurta said, as per a report of the New Indian Express.
Protest outside the NYT office in New York
A protest was held in New York, USA in front of the NYT offices to extend support to Newsclick and journalists under attack. The solidarity protest also voiced their anger against the New York Times (NYT) which had published an ‘investigative piece’ in August, alleging NewsClick received funding from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which had formed the basis of the police action. The protestors could be seen carrying yellow placards that read “NYT lies leads to Modi’s crimes against the Press”, “Stop NYT Slander against anti-war voices”, and “Hands off NewsClick and independent media.” The protestors also called out the Modi government’s stance against press freedom.
A video from the protest can be viewed here:
Hands off NewsClick!
A recent New York Times hit piece smeared leading Indian progressive outlet @newsclickin as part of a “Chinese propaganda network”. This week the Modi gov’t cited this pretext for mass raids & arrest of journalists — we protested outside the NYT in response! pic.twitter.com/BsOyWJzagJ
— Party for Socialism and Liberation (@pslnational) October 4, 2023
- Protest at Kolkata Press Club
On October 5, a solidarity protest was called by the Kolkata Press Club wherein hundreds of journalists had gathered. As per media reports, the protesting journalists had taken out a rally from the Press Club premises to the Gandhi Statue. The protesting journalist could be seen donning black badges and carrying placards saying, “Journalists are not terrorists”, “Defend press freedom”, etc.
Participating in the protest were renowned members of the media fraternity such as veteran journalist Rantideb Sengupta, Subhasish Maitra, ALTnews founder Pratik Sinha, senior journalist Monideepa Banerjee (former regional director of NDTV), Calcutta Journalists Club president Prantik Sen, associate editor of Bengali daily, Ganashakti, Atanu Saha, Press Club Kolkata president Snehasish Sur and secretary, Kingshuk Pramanik.
- Protest at Freedom Park, Bangalore
A protest was held at the Freedom Park, Bangalore which saw the participation of several prominent citizens and civil society organisations. Journalists and lawyers had led the protest. Arvind Narrain, president of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Karnataka, was also a part of the said protest and had pointed out that the recent raids and arrests mirror those that marked the beginning of the Emergency of 1975-77.
- Candlelight Vigil at Mumbai Press Club
Various media organisations in Mumbai came together to hold a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the NewsClick journalists on October 5 within the premises of the Mumbai Press Club. The event was backed by the Mumbai Press Club, Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, TV Journalists Association, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists, Bombay News Photographers Association, and Mantralaya Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh.
The participating protesting media organisations expressed their collective concern and emphasised the need for an impartial investigation into the allegations. They also called upon the authorities and the Delhi Police to cease actions perceived as a targeted campaign of harassment against these journalists.
Journalists in Mumbai protests against the BJP centre govt & its police coercive actions against journalists under draconian law. Journalists condemned the Delhi police act of seizing the mobile phones and laptops of the journalists. pic.twitter.com/cogix7O0B0
— Sudhir Suryawanshi (@ss_suryawanshi) October 5, 2023
Speaking at the protest, senior journalist Nikhil Wagle compared the current crackdown on independent dissenting voices to the ones that took place during the emergency.
Senior Marathi journalist Nikhil Wagle (@waglenikhil) condemns crackdown on journalists by #Modi govt and compares it to the “declared emergency in 1984” #NewsClick #Mumbai. #JournalismIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/vt3oJNCIBS
— Anmol Alphonso 🕵🌹 (@AnmolAlphonso) October 5, 2023
- Protest by journalists in Hyderabad
On October 5, a protest march was held by the Indian Journalists Union in Hyderabad to condemn the raids. The protest began at Desoddharaka Bhavan in Basheerbagh and ended near the Ambedkar statue near Tankbund.
— Mubashir.Khurram (@infomubashir) October 5, 2023
- Demonstration and reading of a memorandum to the PM in Indore
On October 5, a demonstration against the attack on journalists was held in Indore, Madhya Pradesh wherein around 50 people assembled in front of the commissioner’s office near Gandhi Hall. The protest began with exhortation of slogans and display of posters denouncing the abusive police action and led to the crowd marching gathering at the entrance of the commissioner’s building. On behalf of the organizers, Vineet Tiwari (National Secretary, Progressive Writers’ Association) read out the memorandum of the protest addressed to the Prime Minister which had raised questions regarding the harassment of journalists by authorities, the allegations of terrorism and anti-nationalism levied against Newsclick and the erosion of fundamental rights.
Many conscientious citizens, intellectuals, artists, journalists associations – both nationally and internationally have also come out in solidarity with newsclick.
- Statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and international support
On October 3, the CPJ had called for the immediate release of arrested Prabir Purkayastha. The international organisation had also asked the Indian authorities to “stop trying to intimidate journalists through tactics such as Tuesday’s police raids on the Delhi office of Indian news website NewsClick and the homes of at least 12 staff and journalists with ties to the outlet.”
Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, also stated that “This is the latest attack on press freedom in India. We urge the Indian government to immediately cease these actions as journalists must be allowed to work without fear of intimidation or reprisal.”
As per The Hindu, a similar statement was also issued by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia, urging the authorities to respect the fundamental rights of journalists and uphold the principles of press freedom and freedom of expression as per the Indian Constitution.
On October 4, 2023, the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights had also expressed serious concern over the ongoing assault on media freedom in India and the detention of journalists, saying, “Our office is troubled by reports of raids, arrests and detentions, and seizures of property of journalists in Delhi yesterday (Tuesday).”
As per a report of the Wire, the spokesperson in the office of the Human Rights Commissioner had said: “We have previously expressed concern about the shrinking of civic space in India, in particular for independent journalists and activists, and yesterday’s events may have a further chilling effect.”
- Students of Columbia School of Journalism speak out
On October 5, the students of Columbia Journalism School also issued a statement condemning the persecution of journalists in India. In their statement, they highlighted the falling position that India holds in the Freedom Press Index and the worrying trend of using anti-terror laws against journalists to silence the truth.
- Statement by Amnesty International India
Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India, also issued a statement on consistent targeting of Newsclick and the recent raids. He said “Journalism is not a crime. The NewsClick raids and the arrest of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty are the latest attempts by the Indian government to decimate independent and critical media. Authorities must immediately release Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty and allow them to carry out their work without any reprisals.”
In his statement, Patel further highlighted the grave attack on human rights by employment of UAPA, a draconian law which violates fair trial rights with impunity, and urged for the immediate release of journalists detained on trumped-up or politically motivated charges and solely for their critical reporting.
- Statement by the Press Club of India, the Editors Guild of India and other news organisations and associations of jo
The Press Club of India (PCI) and the Editors Guild of India (EGI) issued statements expressing solidarity with the journalists being questioned and arrested in the Newsclick case. have urged the government to provide details.
The EGI had issued a statement stating that it was deeply concerned about the raids at the residences of senior journalists. The organisation had called the said raids to be an attempt to muzzle the media. “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. While we recognise that the law must take its course if actual offences are involved, the due process has to be followed. The investigation of specific offences must not create a general atmosphere of intimidation under the shadow of draconian laws, or impinge on the freedom of expression and the raising of dissenting and critical voices,” the guild had said.
The PCI had expressed their deep concern regarding the raids by taking to ‘X’ (formerly known as Twitter) and stated “The PCI stand in solidarity with the journalists and demand the government to come out with details.”
The Press Club of India is deeply concerned about the multiple raids conducted on the houses of journalists and writers associated with #Newsclick.
We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement.
— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) October 3, 2023
A statement was also released by the Indian Women’s Press Corps on social media through which they had expressed outrage and argued that the repeated targeting of certain media outlets for their criticism of government policies that are not people-friendly reflects poorly on a government that represents the world’s largest democracy.
We at @IWPC express strong outrage at the targeting of our members and other journalists.
We stand in solidarity with them and demand they be released and harassment stopped pic.twitter.com/2rPWyje765
— Indian Women’s Press Corps (@iwpcdelhi) October 3, 2023
The National Alliance of Journalists, the Delhi Union of Journalists, and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (Delhi Unit) had also issued statements condemning the act of the Delhi police, emphasising the far-reaching impact that such raids will have on press freedom. Furthermore, the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) had demanded that usage of stringent anti-terror laws such as the UAPA indiscriminately to target journalists should be prohibited.
A joint statement was also issued by ten independent media organisations of West Bengal wherein they had highlighted the abuse of law against journalists, using spywares as well as increasing raids by government agencies like ED and the CBI to harass journalists.
— Nagorik.net (@netnagorik) October 4, 2023
The Press Club of Bangalore in a statement said that it was deeply concerned over the raids by the Delhi police on the residences of journalists. “The Press Club of Bangalore urges for an unbiased and fast-tracked investigation in the matter while pushing for all authorities to uphold the freedom of press,” it had said.
- Renowned intellectuals speak out
On October 5, a joint statement was issued by renowned writers and activists, including International Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree, Ramon Magsaysay Award winners P. Sainath and Aruna Roy, writers K.R. Meera, Perumal Murugan, Ramachandra Guha and V. Geetha, and singer T.M. Krishna. Through the statement, they condemned the Delhi Police’s UAPA case and action against the editor, staff members and contributors of Newsclick. in their statement, they have emphasised that “criticism is essential for a democracy and any attempt to mute voices is an assault on India’s democratic spirit.”
An open letter renouncing the employment of repressive tactics by the Indian government, issued by the International media outlet Peoples Dispatch, was signed by over 300 journalists, political leaders, artists, academics, and progressive activists from around the world. The statement provided that “NewsClick is exactly the kind of media outlet which strengthens a democracy, shining a light and giving a voice to those marginalized and silenced sectors of society which clamor for dignity and change.”
- Statement by political parties and leaders.
In a joint statement, the INDIA alliance, a coalition of 28 opposition political parties, expressed their dismay over the raids conducted and alleged that the Narendra Modi government has persecuted the media over the past nine years by using investigative agencies against them. As reported by the Hindu, the coalition had said, “The coercive actions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government are directed against only those media organisations and journalists that speak truth to power.”
The statement can be accessed here:
INDIA stands against any form of intimidation or silencing of journalistic voices. We are on the side of democracy, not dictatorship.
This is nothing but yet another distraction from the most important question in India today – of a nationwide caste census. pic.twitter.com/FG1UWXWbrT
— K C Venugopal (@kcvenugopalmp) October 3, 2023
Many leaders of the opposition parties have also been putting out separate posts on social media to show their continuous support with the journalists and defending their rights.
On October 5, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also pointed finger at the Delhi Police and called the raids “unfortunate and a disgrace to democracy and traditions of freedom”
“Freedom of the press is fundamental to any democracy…In our country, we have a very long record of Supreme Court judgments upholding the freedom of the press in our country. I believe the government erred. If there is a charge of foreign funding that is illegal or improper, there are right ways to investigate it. But confiscating journalists’ laptops and depriving them of access is not right,” Tharoor told the media.
The video of Tharoor addressing the media can be viewed here:
#WATCH | Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: On Delhi Police conducting raids at different premises linked to #NewsClick, #Congress MP #ShashiTharoor says, “Freedom of the press is fundamental to any democracy…What happened yesterday was not only unfortunate, it was a disgrace to our… pic.twitter.com/XkAJshrNjc
— NewsMobile (@NewsMobileIndia) October 5, 2023
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted his condemnation
Condemn the efforts to stifle alternative media that highlight issues sidelined by mainstream media. Criticism of Delhi Police’s moves against @newsclickin should be taken seriously. Silencing opposing voices is a fascist tendency. GoI should uphold the freedom of media to…
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@pinarayivijayan) October 4, 2023
- Joint letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India by Digipub
On October 4, a letter was addressed to the Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, requesting for judicial intervention to “put an end to the increasingly repressive use of investigating agencies against the media”.
“During your time at the Supreme Court, you have seen how on numerous occasions, the country’s investigating agencies have been misused and weaponised against the press,” the letter said. “Sedition and terrorism cases have been filed against editors and reporters, and multiple, sequential and/or frivolous FIRs have been used as an instrument of harassment against journalists.”
The letter urged for the courts to consider three points: the framing of norms to discourage the seizure of journalists’ devices; guidelines for seizures and the interrogation of journalists; and finding ways to ensure accountability of state agencies. Through the letter, the media organisations also highlighted that these raids are an attack against the democratic structure of our country and its fourth pillar by stating that “…ad hoc, sweeping seizures and interrogations surely cannot be considered acceptable in any democratic country.”
Notably, the said letter was signed by a coalition of 24 media organisations, including the Press Club of India, Digipub News India foundation, The Indian Women’s Press Co., Foundation for Media Professionals, Chandigarh Press Club, Kerala Union of Journalists, among others.
Letter from the media to D.Y. Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India, on the Delhi police raids at the homes of journalists and seizure of devices.
“…ad hoc, sweeping seizures and interrogations surely cannot be considered acceptable in any democratic country.” pic.twitter.com/AY1idO1Oao
— DIGIPUB News India Foundation (@DigipubIndia) October 4, 2023
- Statement by the PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties)
On October 3, a statement was released by the PUCL condemning the raids as well as shocking usage of draconian terror sections against journalists. The statement highlighted that the raids have been carried out by the Delhi police “in order to influence public opinion and the court” as the 2021 cases of ED against the news portal and its founder were listed to be heard by the Delhi High Court after a week.
Additionally, the PUCL deemed the police action to be “nothing other than an egregious abuse of state power utilized to build a fairy tale narrative that Chinese money was being used by the raided journalists and media professionals for purposes of terrorism!”
The complete statement can be read here.
- Statement by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)
On October 4, the NPRD released a statement strongly condemning the raids against Newsclick as well as the arrest of Amit Chakravarthi, who is a polio survivor and person with disability using crutches. In their statement, the international commitments of India to protect people with disabilities from inhumane treatment and torture was emphasised upon. The NPRD urged the authorities to make all reasonable accommodations for Amit Chakravarti while he remained in custody and take care of his accessibility needs. The statement, signed by general secretary Muralidharan, also said that the portal has been consistently championing the cause of the marginalised sections, including disabled people.
NPRD statement demanding #reasonableaccommodation for #disabled #polio survivor Amit Chakravarti of @newsclickin covered in @thewire_in https://t.co/hvQe3NEEkZ @armanaly @ncpedp_india @drag_org @vjayakumar @DisabilityIndia @SNAMBURAJAN @handicareindia @AmbikaPanditTOI
— National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (@NPRD_IN) October 5, 2023
- Statement by the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR)
On October 5, a strongly-worded statement was released by the CASR condemned the raids against Newclick journalists, associated activists and NIA raids all over the country in the name of national security as well as the arrests made after these raids. CASR’s statement painted a concerning picture of the broader repression occurring across India. The CASR also demanded for the immediate end to the raids and for the immediate release of all political prisoners arrested after these raids. They also urged all democratic organizations and activists to come together in a united struggle against ‘Brahmanical Hindutva fascism’.
- Memorandum submitted to Delhi Police Commissioner by National Union of Journalists (India)
On October 5, under the leadership of NUJI President Rash Bihari, a delegation of journalists submitted a memorandum to Delhi Police Commissioner Sanjay Arora to ensure that there is a fair investigation and that no journalists are misbehaved with by the police during interrogation. Notably, the NUJI is affiliated with the International Federation of Journalists. It was also asserted by the NUJI that it has always been in favor of independent, impartial and transparent journalism and strict action must be taken against anyone that is producing fake news, but no innocent journalist should be put behind bars.
- Press Release by the All Indian Kisan Sabha (AIKS)
On October 5, the AIKS released a statement strongly criticizing the fascistic assault on NewsClick and other independent media organisations who are critical of the Narendra Modi led BJP regime. The statement provided that “The hounding of NewsClick based on false allegations is part of a larger design by the Modi regime to eliminate all forms of dissent. It is a blatant attack on press freedom.”
The AIKS highlighted the tireless role that the news click played in covering the stories of Farmer’s protest against the three farm laws, the killing of the dairy farmers by cow vigilantes, the role of the Sangh parivar in delhi riots, depicting “Newslick’s journalistic integrity and commitment to the masses”. An appeals was also made by the AIKS to the Indian peasantry “to intensify their struggles and align with democratic forces to fight this undeclared emergency.”
The complete statement can be read here.
There are reports of multiple protests from across India even as this piece is being published.