In a significant development, the Delhi Police carried out raids on the homes of several journalists and employees associated with the online news portal NewsClick on Tuesday. These actions were taken in connection with a case filed under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), India’s anti-terrorism legislation. The raids come in the wake of allegations that NewsClick received funding from sources promoting Chinese propaganda. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had previously registered a case against the news portal, accusing it of receiving foreign funding in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
The founder and editor-in-chief of NewsClick, Prabir Purkayastha, found himself in police custody, facing charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and criminal conspiracy. These allegations center around suspicions that NewsClick had received funds for pro-China propaganda. In addition to Purkayastha, journalist Amit Chakravarty was also arrested in connection with the same case. The police subsequently sealed NewsClick’s office premises.
According to a statement issued by the Delhi Police, they questioned 37 male suspects at various locations, while nine female suspects were interviewed at their respective residences. The police Special Cell executed searches at thirty different locations linked to the news portal and its journalists. Digital devices, documents, and other materials were seized for further examination.
The police seized electronic evidence such as laptops and mobile phones and extracted data from hard disks. The searches were carried out based on information provided by the ED, which pointed to alleged unlawful activities by the suspects.
The probe unearthed a suspected fraudulent inflow of foreign funds totaling Rs 38.05 crore over a span of just three years. Further scrutiny revealed that Rs 9.59 crore had been received as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), while Rs 28.46 crore had come in through the export of services. These funds allegedly found their way to several controversial journalists, including Gautam Navlakha and associates of human rights activist Teesta Setalvad.
Notably, the Delhi Police also conducted a search at the official residence of CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury. This move was related to the NewsClick case, as the son of a CPM employee worked for the online portal. The Enforcement Directorate had previously shared information regarding NewsClick’s alleged ties to China with the Delhi Police.
The raids have generated reactions from various quarters, including opposition parties and the Press Club of India. In a statement, the Press Club of India expressed deep concern over the raids on the homes of journalists and writers associated with NewsClick. Congress leader Pawan Khera labeled the raids as a “fresh distraction” from the release of data on the Bihar caste census.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur, when questioned about the raids, stated that probe agencies were free to conduct searches if any wrongdoing was suspected and that he did not need to justify the actions taken. He emphasized that probe agencies in India function independently and within the framework of the law.
The investigations into NewsClick’s alleged foreign funding and its purported links to Chinese propaganda remain ongoing, casting a spotlight on the intersection of journalism, finance, and national security in India. The case may be brought before the court, and it will ultimately determine the strength of the Delhi Police’s allegations