Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of NewsClick, found himself in the custody of the Delhi Police on Tuesday, as he was apprehended in connection with a case registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Subsequently, he has been remanded to 7-day police custody after appearing before a judge at his residence on Wednesday morning.
Amit Chakravarty, the Human Resources Head of NewsClick, who was arrested alongside Purkayastha, has also been sent to police custody by a special court.
The arrests of Purkayastha and Chakravarty followed a comprehensive day-long raid conducted by the Delhi police at the NewsClick office and the residences of approximately 40 journalists and activists affiliated with the news portal. These actions were prompted by allegations suggesting that the portal had received funds for promoting pro-China propaganda.
In the wake of the raids, police authorities sealed NewsClick’s office located in Delhi. During the operation, a total of 46 individuals were subjected to questioning, and digital devices, including laptops and mobile phones, as well as various documents, were confiscated for further examination.
Notable figures in the world of journalism, including Urmilesh, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Abhisar Sharma, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, historian Sohail Hashmi, satirist Sanjay Rajoura, and D Raghunandan of the Centre for Technology and Development, were among those interrogated for extended periods before being released.
The controversy surrounding NewsClick was triggered by a recent report in The New York Times, alleging that the website had received financial support from a US millionaire named Neville Roy Singham for the promotion of pro-China propaganda in India. Consequently, the media outlet came under the scrutiny of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Economic Offences Wing (EoW) of the Delhi Police.
On August 17, a case was registered against the portal under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 153A (promoting enmity between two groups) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
The Delhi Police’s actions have drawn sharp criticism from opposition parties and various journalist organizations, including the Editors Guild of India (EGI). They view the arrests and raids as an attempt to stifle the press. The Congress Party has accused the Narendra Modi government of imposing an “undeclared Emergency” since 2014, alleging that it has worsened in the run-up to the 2024 elections.
The Editors Guild emphasized that while specific offenses should be investigated, they must not lead to a general atmosphere of intimidation, especially under the shadow of draconian laws, and should not infringe upon the freedom of expression and the right to voice dissenting and critical opinions.