'Sustained Pattern of Intimidation': DIGIPUB Condemns I-T Raids on Media Outlets

On Friday, I-T department officials raided the offices of news-media organisations Newsclick and Newslaundry.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>On Friday, officials from the Income Tax Department raided the offices of both these news-media organisations.</p><p><br></p></div>

The DIGIPUB News India Foundation on Saturday, 11 September, expressed their condemnation against the I-T raids on offices of news-media organisations NewsClick and Newslaundry and said that they see a 'sustained pattern of intimidation' against independent news websites.

On Friday, officials from the Income Tax Department raided the offices of both these news-media organisations.

"DIGIPUB is shocked by the harassment meted out by Income-Tax officials to the editors of the two publications. Phones and laptops were impounded during the search and data was cloned. This violates the right to privacy. It also compromises journalistic sources," they said in the statement.

"It is imperative for the authorities to clarify why these organisations have been repeatedly subjected to raids and searches," the statement said.

"Newsclick and Newslaundry have always spoken truth to power, frequently publishing work that is critical of the government. In a democracy, journalists have been accorded the role of playing watchdog to the institutions of state," the statement further added, saying that journalists must be allowed to carry out this function "without fear of intimidation and punitive action".

'Survey Ops', Not 'Raids'

Unnamed officials on Friday told PTI that they were covering the business premises of the two portals and that the operations were being conducted to verify certain tax payment details and remittances made by the organisations.

However, the officials said that they were conducting separate “survey operations” and not “raids”.

“Surveys have been carried out in the case of both Newslaundry and NewsClick. The department’s officials conducted surveys on their premises in Delhi on charges of tax evasion,” an official was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

A day after, in his official statement on the matter, Newslaundry CEO and Co-founder, Abhinandan Sekhri, said:

"I was told I cannot speak to the lawyer and have to hand over my phone... I was told the law requires me to comply without seeking legal advice."

Sekhri also said that the Income Tax department, which raided their offices at approximately 12:15 in the afternoon, looked through all computer devices on the premises, including his personal mobile phone, and the data from these devices was downloaded.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story wrongly termed Abhinandan Sekhri as the Editor-in-Chief of Newslaundry. The error is regretted.)

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