India: Indian police raid journalists, activists
By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria
4,444 Indian police officers raided the homes of at least eight journalists and activists on Tuesday, local media reported, raising concerns about a crackdown in the country where press freedom is severely restricted.
The raid has reportedly been linked to English news website NewsClick. Indian authorities filed a lawsuit in 2021 accusing the organization of receiving foreign funds.
The New York Times reported in August that NewsClick received funding from US billionaire Neville Roy Singham, who “included Chinese government talking points in its reporting.” Singham reportedly denied it.
NewsClick journalist Alitri Das wrote on social media that police “broke into my house” at dawn, questioned her about her reporting, and seized her laptop, phone and computer hard drive.
Das also said the raids were related to a case against NewsClick under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a strict anti-terror law that makes bail virtually impossible.
In a statement, the Mumbai Press Club expressed “deep concern” over the raids and reported that “several journalists associated with NewsClick faced raids.”
The paper called on police to “cease what it sees as a targeted campaign of harassment against these journalists.”
Historian and activist Sohail Hashmi was also sought in connection with NewsClick.
“From the search warrant they reluctantly submitted to me, it appears that the raid on my home was related to the NewsClick investigation,” Hashmi told AFP.
Hashmi, who was forced to hand over his laptop, phone and hard drive containing more than a decade’s worth of writings, called the raid “a combination of intimidation and repression against freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”
“Voices of Opposition”
There was no immediate response by the police, and raids were carried out in both the capital, New Delhi, and Mumbai.
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“If someone does something wrong, the investigating authorities are free to The case can be investigated,” NDTV channel quoted him as saying.
Press freedom in India has declined sharply since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, according to human rights activists and opposition politicians.
Reporters Without Borders warns that “press freedom in India is at risk”. Since 2014, India has fallen from 140th to 161st in the press freedom rankings, including 11th from last year.
Journalists critical of the government have complained of increased harassment, including on social media, where Prime Minister Modi’s ruling party has a strong presence.
Critics say the Modi government is trying to put pressure on human rights organizations by closely monitoring their finances and restricting foreign funding.
The Indian Media Women’s Network said Tuesday’s “shocking” raid targeted “prominent opposition voices”.
Those raided include founding editor Prabir Purkayastha, journalists Auninjo Chakravarty, Basha Singh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, and satirist Sanjay Rajula. and activist Teesta Setalvad, Indian media reported.