Citizens for Democracy: “ED raid on Newsclick vindictive and scandalous”

The ED raid on the premises associated with Newsclick, starting on the morning of 9th February 2021 with 25 officials, came to end yesterday at 1.30 AM on 14th February – after nearly 114 hours. The time taken in the raid is unusual. As per Newsclick’s statement issued “some equipment vital to our functioning as a news organization was seized” and “communication devices of directors and senior management has also been seized, which has, therefore, limited their ability to return to work or indeed, respond to queries of the media.” The laptop and phone of Prabir Purkayastha Editor-in-Chief of Newsclick have also been taken away.

During this so called investigation, the ED officials were also busy in issuing selective leak to the media which act of ED officials has been described by Newsclick as malicious, misleading and a smear attempt. It has condemned, and rightly so, that the leak constitutes “a violation of the sanctity of the legal and investigative process”. The Apex Court as well as High courts have time and again cautioned investigative agencies against such attempts as leaks during investigation affect the right of the accused. The leak engineered in the case of Newsclick creates doubt about the motive of the raid and pollutes the investigation at the threshold.

The Newsclick has emerged a strong independent news portal fearlessly exposing falsehood in the realm of fake news and speaking truth to power. Its programmes have been truthful and popular. Its coverage of ongoing farmers’ protest is exceptional. The raid on it reminds one of the emergency days (June 1975 – March 1977) when free press was ruthlessly suppressed. Major part of the media had surrendered to power and those who refused to succumb were harassed on one pretext or the other. Cases were filed against Statesman and Indian Express on spurious pleas because they refused to toe the official line. Hindustan Times was pressurized to throw out its editor B.G. Verghese who had written a piece critical of the then government. The veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar was arrested and jailed for his unpalatable comments. Prabir Purkasthaya, owner of the Newsclick himself had to suffer one year imprisonment during those days of ’emergency’ as he had participated in protests as a student in JNU to oppose repressive measures. The intimidatory tactics used during those days to discipline journalists are being employed by the present central government without declaration of a formal emergency. The draconian laws like Sedition, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and NIA are being freely misused since the govt. came to power. A study by well known journalist Geeta Seshu shows that out of 150 journalists arrested, detained and interrogated between 2010 and 2020, 40% of such cases were in the year 2020 alone! The present government seems to be determined to terrorise the independent media like Newsclick. There is no doubt that ED raid on Newsclick is part of the attack to throttle free expression. This raid is vindictive and scandalous.

Citizens For Democracy stand in solidarity with Newsclick and its editors and with all those who have become targets of governmental repression.

The present government must know that the people of this country have always refused to live in the shadow of dictatorship. They believe in what Gandhi Ji had said. “Freedom of the Press is a precious privilege which no country can forego.” CFD call upon the Central Government to stop harassing the honest journalists and independent media. CFD also call upon all civil liberty and other activists and organizations to come together and resist this onslaught on the freedom of the press and Indian democracy.

S.R. Hiremath                         N.D. Pancholi                        Anil Sinha

   President                            General Secretary                   Secretary

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