India Police Arrest NewsClick Founder, Raid Journalists' Homes Over Alleged China Fund

India Police Arrest NewsClick Founder, Raid Journalists' Homes Over Alleged China Fund - Police in India have arrested the founder of independent news portal NewsClick after raiding the homes of dozens of journalists and staff on Oct. 3 amid allegations that the company received funding from communist China.

India Police Arrest NewsClick Founder, Raid Journalists' Homes Over Alleged China Fund

India Police Arrest NewsClick Founder, Raid Journalists' Homes Over Alleged China Fund

Police in India have arrested the founder of independent news portal NewsClick after raiding the homes of dozens of journalists and staff on Oct. 3 amid allegations that the company received funding from communist China.

Some 500 cops had been deployed to over 100 locations linked to the news site, according to local reports. Delhi police said they interrogated 46 "suspects" and seized their devices for the investigation.
Those questioned include current and former employees, contributors, and cartoonists. Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a consultant for NewsClick, said the police asked him various questions, including whether he had covered the 2020 Delhi riots.
"Nine police personnel came to my home in Gurugram at 6.30 in the morning. They asked me various questions. I came with them voluntarily to the Special Cell of the Delhi Police," he told ANI News.

"The same set of questions were asked over and over again, if I am an employee of NewsClick, I said 'No, I'm a consultant,'" Mr. Thakurta added.

Police have arrested Prabir Purkayastha, founder and editor-in-chief of NewsClick, and chief of human resources Amit Chakravarthy under the anti-terrorism law. Authorities also sealed the company's office.

The raids came after authorities brought a case against NewsClick on Aug. 17 over a New York Times report alleging the online news portal had received funds from an American millionaire who funded the spread of "Chinese propaganda."

NewsClick has denied any misconduct, saying the allegations "made by certain political actors and sections of the media" against it are "unfounded and without basis in fact or law."
The company said in a statement on Oct. 4 that it had not received a copy of the First Information Report and had not been provided with information regarding the charges it was facing.

"What we have been able to gather is that Newsclick stands accused of offenses under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for purportedly carrying Chinese propaganda on its website," it stated.

"We strongly condemn these actions of a Government that refuses to respect journalistic independence and treats criticism as sedition or 'anti-national' propaganda," the news outlet added.

NewsClick was founded in 2009 and is seen as a rare Indian news outlet willing to criticize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was raided by Indian financial enforcement officials in 2021, after which a court blocked the authorities from taking any "coercive measures" against the website.

US Declines to Comment

The United States acknowledged reports about NewsClick's alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) but said it cannot comment on the veracity of those claims.

State Department principal deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said that Washington "strongly supports the robust role of media globally" and raised concerns on these matters with the Indian government.

"We have urged the Indian Government, and have done so not just with India but other countries as well, about the importance of respecting the human rights of journalists, including freedom of expression both online and offline," he told reporters on Oct. 3.

India's Press Freedom in 'Downward Spiral'

Media watchdogs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), denounced the arrests and raids and said they were part of an intensifying crackdown on independent media under Mr. Modi.
"This is the latest attack on press freedom in India. We urge the Indian government to immediately cease these actions, as journalists must be allowed to work without fear of intimidation or reprisal," Beh Lih Yi, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, said in a statement.

The Indian digital news foundation Digipub has strongly condemned the raids and said they have taken "the government's pattern of arbitrary and intimidatory behavior to a whole other level."

"India has been in a downward spiral on press freedom and other rankings on civil liberties and human rights, and the Indian government's war against the media is a blot on the world's largest democracy," it stated.

According to Digipub, lawyers have been denied access to communicate with the detainees and have not received any information on the reason for the detention.

"While the investigating agencies do their job, and until they can prove any specific allegations, Digipub calls for fairness and civility in the discourse about the case," the organization added.

The Editor's Guild of India said it was "deeply concerned" that the raids were "yet another attempt to muzzle the media" and urged the Indian government to follow due process.

"The investigation of specific offenses must not create a general atmosphere of intimidation under the shadow of draconian laws, or impinge on the freedom of expression and the raising of dissenting and critical voices," it stated.

India’s anti-terrorism law has stringent bail requirements, meaning individuals often spend months, sometimes years, in custody without being found guilty. Successive Indian governments have invoked the law, but it has been used frequently in recent years.

Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, ranked India 161st in its press freedom rankings this year, stating that the situation has deteriorated from “problematic” to “very bad.”

Some independent Indian think tanks and international groups, such as Amnesty International and Oxfam India, have also been raided and had their access to funding blocked in recent years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.