The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday night ended its raid after 38-hours in independent media house NewsClick’s office in New Delhi amid condemnation by journalists’ bodies, opposition politicians and rights activists.
According to the ED officials, searches on the premises linked to digital media platform NewsClick were in connection with an alleged money laundering probe into receipt of funds to the tune of ₹30 crore from abroad.
A senior ED official on Tuesday said the probe was based on an FIR registered by the Delhi Police a few months ago and that the company running the platform had allegedly received funds from a U.S.-based firm, which had been liquidated.
After 38 hours of raid, ED officials left with two huge boxes which had the laptops, mobile phones and hard-disks which seized by the officials.
Raids were also conducted at NewsClick Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha’s residence as well as the homes of some senior management officials of the digital media platform.
The Editors Guild of India has said it’s “deeply concerned” about the raids.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Guild noted that the news portal has been reporting on the farmers’ agitation, anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests, and “has been critical of various government policies and of a few powerful corporates houses”.
The guild highlighted that such raids by government agencies on media houses should not be used to intimidate journalists.
The news portal NewsClick released a statement and said: “During the raid, NewsClick has cooperated with the officials and will continue to do so. If the ED and the government are truthful and follow the course of law, no wrong-doing will be found and this unfortunate event will be closed. Newsclick has nothing to hide.”
“It has become a routine practice with the present government to deploy government-controlled agencies to deal with all those who disagree with and criticise the government. In the past, the Income-Tax Department, the ED, various Central investigative agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation and National Investigation Agency, have been selectively used in this manner against a range of people — from journalists to political leaders, to even farmers’ leaders,” reads the statement.
It added: “The whole panoply of the legal instruments available with the government have been deployed for such politically motivated coercive actions, including filing cases of sedition, defamation, harming harmony, breach of peace, etc. under the Indian Penal Code, and use of other laws like the Disaster Management Act, the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Information Technology Act, and others.”
“Subjugate, Suppress and Stifle is the only mantra of Modi Government as proved by ED raids on NewsClick today,” senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted on Wednesday.
The CPI(M) condemned the raid and described it as “another attack on independent media”.
“The ED action is a blatant attempt to intimidate and suppress an independent news portal. NewsClick has been providing credible and wide coverage of the farmers protests,” the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said in a statement.