Mobilizations for press freedom gained ground in India this Wednesday (4) after police authorities from the far-right government of Narendra Moodi invaded the newsrooms and homes of more than 100 journalists, service providers and former employees associated with media outlets. progressive news NewsClick, Peoples Dispatch and the research institute Tricontinental Research Services in the capital New Delhi.
“We strongly condemn these actions by a government that refuses to respect journalistic independence and treats criticism as sedition or ‘anti-national’ propaganda”, the newspaper NewsClick published in an editorial this Wednesday (4).
A coalition of 18 press organizations from various states sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) YV Chandrachud, requesting the intervention of the Indian Judiciary so that the freedoms enshrined in the country’s Constitution are protected, so that journalists can comply their duty without “threat of reprisals”.
“Media intimidation affects the democratic fabric of society. Subjecting journalists to concentrated criminal prosecution because the government disapproves of their coverage of national and international affairs is an attempt to silence the press through the threat of reprisal”, says the text.
Founded in 2009, the independent news site NewsClick, with an editorial line focused on progressive movements in India, was the main target of the operation and had its office sealed. The site’s founding editor, journalist Prabir Purkayashta, 76, and administrator, Amit Chakraborty, were detained in the operation and the homes of 44 other press professionals were raided. The arrests took place under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the country’s anti-terrorism law, without the detainees being summoned for interrogation. No formal charges were filed against the vehicles.
In an official statement, the Indian police stated that 37 male suspects were interrogated at the NewsClick and nine female suspects were questioned in their homes.
According to the NewsClickthe line of questioning adopted by the Delhi police is aimed at the coverage of the farmer demonstrations in 2020, the main popular movement opposing the Moodi government, and demonstrates “the motivated and malicious intention behind the current procedures”.
In his statement the NewsClick claims to have been the target of a series of actions led by various agencies of the government of India since 2021. Its offices and employee homes were raided by the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offenses Department of the Delhi Police and the Income Tax Department.
In these operations, laptops and phones from the team had already been seized, and their emails and messages were analyzed, as well as bank statements, expenses, sources and company funds. Still according to the NewsClickseveral directors and people linked to the vehicle’s administration spent hours being interrogated by government agencies, without any formal accusation against the vehicle being filed by these bodies.
“We have full confidence in the courts and the judicial process. We will fight for our journalistic freedom and our lives in accordance with the Constitution of India”, declared the outlet.
Peoples Dispatch e Tricontinental Research
Also targets of the police operation were the offices and workers of the Peoples Dispatchan international media project with the mission of bringing voices from popular movements and organizations around the world in its daily news coverage and from Tricontinental, an international research institute guided by popular movements and organizations, which seeks to unite academic production and movements political and social.
Journalist, general editor of LeftWord Books and director of Tricontinental: Institute For Social Research, Vijay Prashad, published a text expressing solidarity with his colleagues detained in India. Prashad points out that the NewsClick played a fundamental role in covering peasant protests in the country, as well as in relation to the “disastrous government policy during the Covid pandemic” and highlights that the vehicle was “one of the few media outlets in India to seriously cover the events in Western Asia and North Africa, particularly Iraq and Iran,” following U.S. government pressure on nuclear power in Iran beginning in 2006.
“Over the years, the NewsClick has grown to become one of the most important voices in people-centered news coverage. It was well known that the main people involved in the NewsClick were left-wing, and it was well known that coverage of the NewsClick he took opinions about popular movements and people’s lives seriously,” wrote Prashad.
Editing: Patrícia de Matos