The biggest persecution action by India’s far-right government against journalists completed six months this Wednesday (3). On October 3, police authorities from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government raided the offices of independent newspapers and the homes of more than 100 journalists in the capital New Delhi. At the time, the editor-in-chief of the independent website NewsClick, 76-year-old Prabir Purkayastha, was arrested and remains in prison.

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Purkayastha’s arrest was made under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the country’s anti-terrorism legislation. In an interview with Brazil in fact, Atul Chandra, a journalist who works for independent media in India, expresses concern about Purkayastha’s health condition. “He suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and several co-morbidities and suffered some chest infections during this period.”

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He reports that around 30 journalists and others associated with NewsClick released that same day, they were subjected to interrogations in the following months. Founded in 2009, the independent news website with an editorial line focused on progressive movements in India, was the main target of the operation and had its office sealed.

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Since 2021, NeswClick has been the target of investigations by the Narendra Modi government, following its coverage of farmer demonstrations in 2020, the main popular movement opposing the government. The attack that began at the end of last year, however, took the persecution to another level, with the application of the anti-terrorism law.

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“They launched a crackdown under the UAPA, a draconian anti-terrorism law, where it is extremely difficult to obtain bail and the investigating authorities have more power. The attacks carried out during the investigation were unprecedented in the history of Indian media and “They were clearly an attempt to shut down NewsClick’s independent journalism. The raids also led to the seizure of several journalists’ devices, which severely affected the functioning of the site,” said Atul Chandra. The ongoing investigation against the site is carried out by five government agencies.

Chandra classifies the attack on NewsClick as one of the biggest attacks on the media in Indian history and highlights that the Modi government’s action faces solidarity from professionals and press associations across the country.

“This action was widely condemned by press associations and journalists across the country. Several protests and events were held demanding Prabir’s freedom. Journalists continue to write and mobilize in support of the cause. Over the past 10 years, the India’s position has fallen alarmingly in the Press Freedom Index. Several independent media outlets have faced action from various government agencies. Several laws have also been introduced that may affect press freedom.”

O NewsClick has appealed to the courts on several issues in the case and the Supreme Court of India is considering a request to quash Prabir’s arrest. A motion to dismiss the First Investigation Report has also been filed in the Delhi High Court and is expected to be heard within a few months.

Editing: Lucas Estanislau


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