The Editors Guild of India on Friday issued a statement expressing concern over the income tax raids on July 22 at the offices of one of India’s leading newspaper group, Dainik Bhaskar and a Lucknow-based independent news channel, Bharat Samachar.
According to the statement, the raids come against the backdrop of in-depth reporting on the coronavirus pandemic by Dainik Bhaskar, which brought to fore the gross mismanagement by government authorities and the immense loss of human lives.
The Guild noted that the raids seemed to be politically motivated.
“In a recent webinar hosted by the Editors Guild, Om Gaur, national editor of Dainik Bhaskar had stated that their advertising from government departments had been cut after the recent critical coverage of state authorities,” read the statement.
The Income Tax Department in a tweet on Thursday had rejected claims that the raid was linked to the Dainik Bhaskar’s reportage.
The EGI went on to say: “Bharat Samachar, too, has been subjected to raids by the tax authorities. It is one of the few channels in Uttar Pradesh that has been asking difficult questions from the state government with respect to COVID-19 management.”
“Notwithstanding the merits of the case, the timing of these raids is concerning given the recent critical coverage by both the organisations,” the statement added.
The Guild also said that this is the second time in recent months that a news outlet has been raided over government claims of economic offences. In February, the Enforcement Directorate raided the residences of several officials and journalists associated with NewsClick.in, an independent media portal based in Delhi for several days.
NewsClick.in had been at the frontline of reporting on the farmers’ agitation and the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, the Guild claimed.
“Editors Guild is therefore concerned that government agencies are being used as a coercive tool to suppress free and independent journalism. This is all the more disturbing given the recent media reports on the widespread surveillance of journalists and civil society activists using the Pegasus software,” the statement said.