In India, police searched the homes of journalists and activists

Indian authorities raided the homes of 46 journalists and activists early Tuesday and made two arrests, raising serious concerns in a country whose rankings have plummeted in ratings for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The journalists targeted included employees of the English-language news site NewsClick. Indian authorities filed a complaint in 2021, alleging that the media received funding from abroad.

In August, New York Times has reported that NewsClick is financed by American millionaire Neville Roy Singham, who “emphasizes his coverage with the Chinese government’s views”, an assertion denied by the person in question.

Police said they questioned 37 men and 9 women, and confiscated computer equipment and documents. Two journalists, Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty, were “arrested”, while “procedures are still ongoing”, police said.

Prabir Purkayastha is editor-in-chief of NewsClick, and Amit Chakravarty heads the human resources department.

The operation, police added, was carried out under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a strict anti-terrorism law that makes it almost impossible to obtain bail.

Aritry Das, a NewsClick journalist, said police raided his house around 6 am and questioned him about his reporting.

“Delhi Police came to my house. He took my laptop, my cell phone, my hard drive,” he wrote on X (ex-Twitter).

“Intimidation and oppression”

The searches, carried out in the capital, New Delhi, and in Bombay, also targeted the homes of journalists Aunindyo Chakravarty, Bhasha Singh and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, comedian Sanjay Rajoura and activist Teesta Setalvad, according to local press.

Historian and activist Sohail Hashmi, who was also raided on Tuesday, had to hand over his laptop, phone and hard drive containing his writings spanning more than a decade to authorities.

“According to the warrant, which they reluctantly showed me, the raid on my house was related to the investigation against NewsClick,” Hashmi told Agence France-Presse, saying he acted as a “combination of intimidation and repression of freedom.” press and freedom of expression”.

Another journalist, Abhisar Sharma, claimed on social media on Tuesday evening that he had undergone “a day of interrogation” by police. “I will continue to question people in power and especially those who are afraid of simple questions,” he wrote.

When asked about the operation by journalists, India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister said: “I don’t need to justify myself. »

“If someone makes a mistake, the agency is free to investigate it,” he continued as quoted by NDTV.

“Harassment campaign”

In a statement, the Bombay Press Club expressed “deep concern”.

He called on police to stop “what is perceived to be a campaign of targeted harassment against these journalists”.

The media professional organization, Network of Women in Media, found the search targeting “prominent dissident voices” “shocking.”

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government took office in 2014, India was ranked 140the ranked among 180 countries in the world in press freedom rankings established by Reporters Without Borders. In 2023, the country ranked 161ste rank. Therefore, the country has lost 21 rankings in nine years, including 11 rankings since last year.

Journalists critical of the government say they face increased harassment, including on social media – where Modi’s ruling party is very active.

By monitoring finances and limiting foreign funding of human rights defenders, the Modi government is putting pressure on their activities, they say.

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Serena Hoyles

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