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Founder of NewsClick Prabir Purkayastha Arrested Under UAPA, Newsroom Sealed, Press Freedom Concerns Grow

Photo: Mint

Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor-in-chief of the online news portal NewsClick, has been apprehended by the Delhi Police under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). This arrest comes in the wake of ongoing investigations into allegations that NewsClick received funds for promoting pro-China propaganda. The Delhi Police further intensified their actions by sealing the NewsClick office, deepening concerns about the freedom of the press.

NewsClick, a well-known news media house, had been under scrutiny following accusations of receiving financial support from China. The probe was initiated on August 17, weeks after The New York Times published a report alleging that the NewsClick website had received funding from an American millionaire, purportedly linked to the dissemination of Chinese propaganda.

Providing an update on the situation, the Delhi Police stated, “Regarding the search, seizure, and detentions carried out today in connection with a UAPA case registered with Special Cell, so far, two accused, Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty have been arrested.” The police have questioned a total of 37 male suspects at various locations and interviewed 9 female suspects at their respective places of residence. This operation also involved the confiscation of digital devices and documents for further examination.

The search and detentions unfolded with the Special Cell of Delhi Police conducting raids at approximately 30 locations associated with NewsClick and its journalists. These actions stem from the case filed under the UAPA, which alleges that the news portal received funds for promoting pro-China narratives.

Founder Prabir Purkayastha was taken into custody and transported to the NewsClick office in South Delhi, where a forensic team was deployed. Several prominent journalists, including Urmilesh, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Abhisar Sharma, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, as well as historian Sohail Hashmi and D Raghunandan of the Centre for Technology & Development, were also questioned during the police operation.

The police presented a list of 25 questions to the individuals, covering various topics such as their foreign travels, involvement in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Shaheen Bagh, and participation in the farmers’ agitation.

“We have been here (outside Police Special Cell office in Delhi) since 10 am and have been trying to meet our clients. However, we have not been able to meet them, neither have we been provided with any documents, nor did we get the copy of the FIR,” Gaurav Yadav, advocate of NewsClick journalist Urmilesh, told news agency PTI.

Prior to the Delhi Police’s actions, the Enforcement Directorate had conducted raids at NewsClick’s premises to investigate the source of its funding. The Special Cell is currently pursuing these searches based on information provided by the central agency.

The Special Cell has registered a new case under the UAPA and commenced an extensive investigation. The raids and detentions are rooted in a case filed back in August under the UAPA and other sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 153A (promoting enmity between two groups) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

Officials said that the police confiscated laptops and mobile phones related to certain NewsClick journalists as part of their operation.

The Press Club of India expressed its “deep concern” regarding the recent raids carried out at the residences of journalists affiliated with the news portal NewsClick. The organization also expressed its support for the journalists and called upon the government to provide more information about the situation.

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