NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha arrested by Delhi police in UAPA case

The Delhi police searches on several journalists associated with NewsClick were related to a UAPA case registered days after a New York Times report alleged that it had received funds from a US millionaire to spread "Chinese propaganda".
Prabir Purkayastha, the founder of NewsClick
Prabir Purkayastha, the founder of NewsClickScreengrab from NewsClick YouTube channel
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NewsClick founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha has been arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell in a case under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on Tuesday, October 3, hours after Delhi police conducted searches at the houses of several journalists and political commentators associated with the NewsClick. The searches were related to an FIR registered on August 17, 2023, invoking multiple sections of the UAPA including “raising funds for terrorist act”, along with sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, The Wire reported. Amit Chakravarty, the HR head of NewsClick, has also been arrested, according to NDTV. 

The case in NewsClick was registered in August, soon after a New York Times report alleged that the website had received funds from a network related to American millionaire Neville Roy Singham to spread "Chinese propaganda".

On Tuesday morning, Delhi police raided the houses of several people with connections to NewsClick including stand-up comic and political satirist Sanjay Rajoura, journalists Bhasha Singh and Prabir Purkayastha, and Abhisar Sharma of NewsClick, oral historian and activist Sohail Hashmi, writer Githa Hariharan, and senior journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Urmilesh and Aunindyo Chakraborty. Police reportedly seized their electronic evidence, laptops, and mobile phones and also took data dumps of hard disks. A total of 37 “male suspects” and nine “female suspects” were questioned at their residences.

A contingent of over 200 officials from various units of the Delhi Police Special Cell reportedly participated in the operation, and searches were carried out at over 30 locations in the national capital. The NewsClick office was sealed by the Delhi Police later in the day. 

Read: INDIA alliance slams raids on journalists, calls it ‘BJP govt’s fresh attack on media’

While questioning journalists at the Special Cell Police Station in Lodhi Colony, the police reportedly presented them with 25 inquiries consisting of their international trips, participation in the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, and involvement in the farmers' agitation, according to sources. Earlier in the day, Prabir was brought to NewsClick's South Delhi office in the presence of a forensic team. 

Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta who also faced several hours of questioning said that nine policemen came to his house in the morning. While leaving the office of the Special Cell, Thakurta said: “I hold an accreditation card from the Press Information Bureau, Government of India. Nine police personnel came to my home in Gurugram at 6.30 am in the morning.”

He said that the police asked him the same set of questions over and over again. “They asked me if I am an employee of Newsclick, and I said 'No, I'm a consultant'. They asked me how much I was paid, and I told them. They asked me all kinds of questions. If I covered the Delhi riots, I said no. They asked if I covered farmers' agitation, and I said yes. ‘Why are you a consultant with NewsClick?’ I said I am a journalist. ‘How long have you been a consultant with them?’ I said since May 2018,” he said. He also said the police asked him if he called a US number which his brother-in-law uses and if he uses the Signal messaging app, according to The Wire. 

The police action was met with severe criticism from several quarters including the opposition INDIA alliance, who slammed it as the BJP-led Union government’s “fresh attack on the media.” In a statement issued on Tuesday, the opposition alliance said the BJP-led Union government had “deliberately persecuted and suppressed the media by deploying investigative agencies”, to suppress various media organisations including BBC, Newslaundry, Dainik Bhaskar, Bharat Samachar, The Kashmir Walla, The Wire etc., and now NewsClick. 

(With IANS inputs)

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