By Satyaki Chakraborty
The Enforcement Directorate raids at the offices of the independent news portal Newsclick got all round condemnation from the journalist organisations of the country and the action by the central agency at the behest of the Modi government, was termed as an attack on the freedom of media which is guaranteed by the Constitution.
The sudden action by the ED officials on Tuesday and also on Wednesday took place soon after some of the leading journalists of the country had to face FIRs for tweeting their views about the farmers movement. The Central Government’s highest law officer pleaded in the Supreme Court against giving protection to the journalists against arrest though the bench was wise enough to give temporary protection.
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) , in a statement issued on Wednesday, said it was “deeply concerned” about the raids by the ED at the office of the independent news website newsclick.in, the residences of its editor-in-chief and promoter, the editor, as well as some of its senior management officials.
“In the recent past the website has been at the frontline of reporting on the farmers agitation, the anti CAA protests, and has been critical of various government policies and of a few powerful corporates house”, it noted adding that the it was concerned that “raids by government agencies are not used as coercive measures to suppress free and independent journalism.”
The EGI demanded that care be taken to not undermine the news operations of Newsclick and that its journalists and stakeholders were not harassed under the garb of such measures.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Asia chapter also tweeted on Tuesday: “We are concerned by news reports that the Indian government’s Enforcement Directorate raided the office of @newsclick.in today. We urge the authorities to respect press freedom.”
The Press Club of India (PCI), in a statement issued on Wednesday termed the ED raids as “an unsavoury attack on the media in a bid to intimidate and silence critical journalism.”
“This particular news group has closely covered the ongoing farmers protest, and specialises in reports on government policies on the poorer sections of society. Publicising the charge of alleged money laundering against a small, public-spirited, news company is no way to defend democratic values and institutions, which the government proclaims to be doing, especially on the world stage,” said the statement signed by senior journalists Anand K Sahay (president) and Anant Bagaitkar (secretary).
Expressing concern over attacks on “prominent journalists of the country, and also on lesser known hard working journalists who report from the ground in far-flung areas of the country,” the PCI noted that this had “regrettably become the hallmark of the government.”
“In the past one year, numerous FIRs have been registered against journalists on the plainly specious and false charge of sedition and incitement of communal disharmony,” said PCI, adding that it has “seen it as a duty to record its protest in all such matters.”
PCI also noted that in several such cases, vile allegations have been made against journalists and “boutique journalist groups” doing ground-level work to expose communal agendas and poor people, which do not eventually “make headway in terms of investigations. Nor have they withstood judicial scrutiny.”
On Tuesday, Digipub, a conglomerate of digital news only websites (Newsclick is part of it) and Delhi Union of Journalists also issued a statement condemning the ED raids.
In a statement, BKU Ekta Ugrahan condemned the raids on the news portal’s office, which has been “reporting extensively on the farmers agitation for the past two months”.
“Our organisation strongly condemns these raids as a serious attack on the online media and freedom of Press. Considers it a continuation of repressive measures adopted against several senior journalists last week by filing sedition charges against them and also curbing free speech on twitter and You Tube. Our organisation demands stopping such raids and other repressive actions, said the statement.
The raids on Newsclick is a planned strategy of the Modi government to silence the objective reports by the independent news portals against the anti-people activities of the government at the centre. The corporate media has been silenced and the regional media is also under monitoring by the Government agencies. Independent portals still are not fully under the control of the saffrons and now the Government wants to control their reporting through vindictive actions.
Raids on Newsclick offices and residences of the editors give a clear signal to the Modi Government’s real intentions to throttle the voice of the independent media.” (IPA Service)