Indian authorities raided the homes of journalists and activists early Tuesday, raising serious concerns in the country, which has fallen in rankings assessing the state of freedom of expression and press.
Among the journalists raided were collaborators with the English-language news site NewsClick. Indian authorities filed a complaint in 2021 alleging that the media outlet had received money from abroad.
in August, The New York Times It reported that NewsClick was funded by American millionaire Neville Roy Singham whose coverage was “interspersed with views of the Chinese government”, an assertion denied by the person in question.
Aritri Das, a journalist with NewsClick, said police stormed her home around 6 a.m. on Tuesday and interrogated her about her reports.
“Delhi Police arrived at my house. They took my laptop, phone, and hard drives,” she wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Several searches were conducted in the capital, New Delhi, and Bombay.
Local press reported that the homes of journalists Onindu Chakravarty, Prabir Purkayastha, Bacha Singh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, comedian Sanjay Rajora, and activist Teesta Setalvad were searched.
The Bombay Press Club expressed its “deep concern” in a statement, noting that “several NewsClick journalists have been subjected to searches.”
The club asked the police to stop “what is seen as a campaign of harassment targeting these journalists.”
Historian and activist Sohail Hashmi, who was also raided on Tuesday, was forced to hand over his laptop, phone and hard drives containing more than a decade of his writings to the authorities.
“Under the arrest warrant they reluctantly showed me, the raid on my house was related to an investigation into the NewsClick case,” Hashemi told AFP, believing it was “a combination of intimidation and suppression of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.” to express”.
The police did not immediately respond to AFP’s requests.
The journalists’ organization, the Women in Media Network, considered these searches targeting “prominent opposition voices” “shocking.”
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government took power in 2014, India was ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the world press freedom rankings created by Reporters Without Borders. In 2023, the country ranks 161st, down 21 places in nine years, including 11 places since last year.
Journalists who criticize the government say they face increasing harassment, including on social media, where Modi’s ruling party is very active.
They say that by scrutinizing finances and limiting foreign funding to human rights defenders, Mr Modi’s government is putting pressure on their activities.
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