Speaking to TNM, Newslaundry editor-in-chief Abhinandan Sekhri said that the ‘survey’ by I-T Department officials, who also copied his personal data, was an “intimidation tactic”.

Abhinandan Sekhri statement on I-T raidsScreengrab/Newslaundry
news Media Saturday, September 11, 2021 - 14:56

On Friday, September 10, Income Tax Department officials searched and surveyed offices of NewsClick and Newslaundry, two independent media publications. This was the second such action against both publications. Newslaundry Editor-in-chief Abhinandan Sekhri revealed in his statement that this was the second visit by the I-T Department, after the first one in June. He also revealed that the officials had made copies of his personal data, and did not allow him to call his lawyer.

In the statement, Sekhri said that the I-T ‘survey’ – as it is called under section 133 A of a document shown to him – began at Newslaundry’s registered office around 12.15 pm on Friday and went on will 12.40 am on Saturday. “I was told I cannot speak to my lawyer and have to hand over my phone. The team consisting about six or seven people was courteous and professional. I was told the law requires me to comply without seeking legal advice. They searched and looked through all computer devices at the premises. My personal mobile phone, laptop and a couple office machines were taken control of and all the data on them downloaded by the IT team. In my understanding this (taking all data from my personal laptop and mobile phone) violates my fundamental right to privacy. No signed hash value of the data copied was provided to me,” he said.

Speaking to TNM, Sekhri said that an overwhelming majority of data taken by I-T officials was personal in nature. “I don’t understand why they would want that. From my reading of the law, they are not entitled to it. What will they do with my chats with my mom and dad? I will be speaking to my lawyers about this,” he said. He added that this was certainly an “intimidation tactic, because we don’t depend on them for ads. We have done nothing wrong, and Newslaundry operates within the ambit of law.”

In his statement, Sekhri said, “We have nothing to hide and have done everything by the book and are not in any breach or violation of any law. We conduct our business honestly and with integrity. We have in the past given the IT authorities all documents related to our funding and accounts. We will cooperate in whatever way we are required to by law. We will also continue to practice public interest journalism which is why we exist.”

He also expressed pride in his team at Newslaundry, for choosing to do what they do “in spite of the odds stacked against them”. “We will persevere. We are clean because, you know, Newslaundry – sab ki dhulai,” he concluded.

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