Claiming that Congress, China, NewsClick are part of an “umbilical cord”, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur has hit out at the opposition and the “left-liberal ecosystem” for supporting media portal NewsClick.
This came a day after a New York Times claimed that the news portal was among Chinese propaganda outlets being funded by American tech mogul Neville Roy Singham. In 2021, India’s Enforcement Directorate had searched NewsClick premises and the homes of the web portal's senior management over a reported money laundering case pertaining to foreign funding.
At the time, the Press Club of India and the Editors Guild had condemned the action calling it a bid to intimidate critical journalism. The Delhi High Court later granted interim relief to the portal’s editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha.
It should be noted the government hasn’t always been fast friends with NYT. . But at today’s joint press conference with union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar at the BJP headquarters, Thakur said news portals have now verified what Indian investigating agencies had indicated two years ago.
Claiming that Singham had also funded the Communist Party of India, the minister said that the opposition raises questions about the actions taken by Indian agencies but they have only been acting against anti-India forces.
Chandrasekhar claimed there is a “remarkable convergence of strategy and a consistent narrative” by platforms that rally behind “free speech”. He said some countries are fanning misinformation in our country with the help of some political parties and news portals. He said the government has removed thousands of accounts being operated by ISI and Khalistani operatives. He said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi amplifies “exactly the narratives” these platforms propagate, be it about democracy being in “danger”, the judiciary “compromised” or EVMs rigged.
Thakur, meanwhile, targeted Rahul Gandhi on a day the Lok Sabha reinstated the Wayanad MP’s membership – after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in a defamation case. Hitting out at the “Ghamandia”, a term used by the BJP to refer to the INDIA opposition bloc, Thakur said that “Chinese items are now clearly visible in Rahul-ji’s fake mohabbat ki dukaan”. He said “these people used to run the anti-India, break India campaign”.
To allege the involvement of the “tukde tukde gang”, the union minister said that activist Gautam Navlakha, who has been behind bars over alleged Maoist links, also used to write for the news portal.
Thakur also asked if AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia had funded NewsClick. “Have you also used money that came through this source,” he asked all opposition parties.
The issue also resonated in Parliament on Monday. As the opposition cornered the government over the situation in Manipur, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey mentioned the NYT report to accuse the party of “dividing” the country and creating anarchy. Amid the din, the House was adjourned till 2 pm.
In an investigation published on Saturday, the New York Times stated, “What is less known, and is hidden amid a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies, is that Mr Singham works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide…In New Delhi, corporate filings show, Mr Singham’s network financed a news site, NewsClick, that sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points. ‘China’s history continues to inspire the working classes,’ one video said.”
The NYT report stated, “Under the rule of Xi Jinping, China has expanded state media operations, teamed up with overseas outlets and cultivated foreign influencers. The goal is to disguise propaganda as independent content…The result is a seemingly organic bloom of far-left groups that echo Chinese government talking points, echo one another, and are echoed in turn by the Chinese state media.”
After the ED action in 2021, NewsClick had said that if the probe agency and the government “are truthful and follow the course of law, no wrongdoing will be found and this unfortunate event will be closed. NewsClick has nothing to hide.”
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