NewsClick slams bid to ‘stifle fearless voices’, founder moves court for copy of FIR

The media outfit said it has been under the ‘microscope’ for over two years but no offence has been established so far.

WrittenBy:NL Team
The statement came a day after NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha's arrest.

A day after NewsClick’s founder Prabir Purkayastha was arrested in a UAPA case against the organisation, his lawyers have approached the Patiala House Court in Delhi seeking a copy of the FIR. Purkayastha and NewsClick HR head Amit Chakravarty were arrested on Tuesday and have been sent to seven-day police custody.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Wednesday, NewsClick has hit out at the attempt to “stifle fearless voices”, saying that no agency has been able to establish any offence against the organisation so far despite scrutinising a large amount of evidence over the last two years. 

The organisation said it has been “targeted” by several agencies since 2021, including searches by the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police and the Income Tax Department. It said all electronic devices have been seized in the past and all emails and communications scrutinised under a “microscope”.  

It also said that its bank statements and details of expenditure and funding have been scrutinised from time to time and its staff questioned several times. The organisation said that its founder and editor Prabir Purkayastha has not even been called for questioning in the past few months. 

“Yet, in the last two plus years, the Enforcement Directorate has not been able to file a complaint accusing NewsClick of money laundering. The Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police has not been able to file a chargesheet against NewsClick for offences under the IPC. The Income Tax Department has not been able to defend its actions before the court of law.”

It said that a government that has not been able to substantiate any charges despite all this information is now using a “bogus article” in the New York Times to invoke the draconian UAPA to “stifle fearless voices” that portray the story of “real India”.

The Enforcement Directorate had earlier attached the portal’s assets after initiating a probe into its funding. The action had come after The New York Times alleged the news site was among Chinese propaganda outlets being funded by American tech mogul Neville Roy Singham. Union ministers Anurag Thakur and Rajeev Chandrasekhar had held a press conference on NYT’s report to claim China, the Indian National Congress and NewsClick are part of an “umbilical cord”. Read all about it here.

“We have not been provided with a copy of the FIR, or informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which we have been charged. Electronic devices were seized from the NewsClick premises and homes of employees, without any adherence to due process such as the provision of seizure memos, hash values of the seized data, or even copies of the data. NewsClick’s office has also been sealed in a blatant attempt at preventing us from continuing our reporting.”

The organisation that it has been “able to gather” that it stands accused of offences under UAPA for “Chinese propaganda” on its website. But, it said, that the organisation does not publish any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity. It also said that it does not publish Chinese propaganda and does not take directions from Neville Roy Singham regarding content published on its website. It said its journalistic content follows the highest standards and all its funding has been reported to the relevant authorities.

“We strongly condemn these actions of a government that refuses to respect journalistic independence, and treats criticism as sedition or ‘anti-national’ propaganda.”

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