Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

BBC Not Alone, Here Are Six Indian Media Houses Which Were 'Searched' By Govt Agencies In Recent Times

BBC Not Alone, Here Are Six Indian Media Houses Which Were 'Searched' By Govt Agencies In Recent Times

Instances of raiding media offices in the wake of dissent are not new instances in India. Several Indian media offices including The Quint, Dainik Bhaskar have been ‘searched’ in the past and we look at a list of them.

Press freedom (Representative image)
Press freedom (Representative image)

The Income Tax ‘survey’ at the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) offices in Delhi and Mumbai along with the cloning of computer peripherals and a few mobile phones has raised questions over the government’s attempt to suppress the media, which is the fourth pillar of democracy. The opposition has alleged that curbing press freedom is akin to suppressing the voice of the public.

In New Delhi and Mumbai, officials said the surveys were being carried out to investigate issues related to international taxation and transfer pricing of BBC subsidiary companies, and alleged that the broadcaster was served with notices in the past, but was "defiant and non-compliant" and had significantly diverted its profits.

The 'survey' that began on Tuesday morning at 11:30 am is ongoing with officials still being present inside the premises of the UK-media house. The tax department had launched the action at the offices in two locations along with at least two linked premises as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion against the British broadcaster in India.

The action comes weeks after the UK-headquartered public broadcaster aired a controversial two-part documentary in the UK, ‘India: The Modi Question’, referencing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots.

However, instances of raiding media offices in the wake of dissent are not new instances in India. Several Indian media offices including The Quint, Dainik Bhaskar have been ‘searched’ in the past and we look at a list of them:

Dainik Bhaskar 

Last year in July, the I-T department raided the offices of one of the country's leading newspaper groups Dainik Bhaskar.

They came against the backdrop of in-depth reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic by Dainik Bhaskar, which brought to the fore the gross mismanagement by government authorities and the immense loss of human lives. 

Last year, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) claimed that Dainik Bhaskar's national editor Om Gaur had stated that their advertisements from government departments have been cut down after recent critical coverage of state authorities.
"He had also written an Op-Ed in the New York Times, headlined 'The Ganges is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie'," the EGI noted.

Bharat Samachar 

I-T raids were also conducted around the same time last year at the office of Lucknow-based Bharat Samachar. 

On raids by the tax department on Bharat Samachar, the guild said that it is one of the few channels in Uttar Pradesh that has been asking difficult questions to the state government with respect to the pandemic's management.
"Notwithstanding the merits of the case, the timing of these raids is concerning given the recent critical coverage by both the organisations," the EGI said.


A similar raid was carried out by the Enforcement Directorate at the residence of journalists and officials working for the Delhi-based independent media house 

According to media reports, the ED officials said that the probe agency was carrying out their “routine check” and stated that the media house was 
allegedly involved in a money laundering case for taking foreign funding from some dubious companies abroad.

An official statement had read, "It has become a routine practice with the present government to deploy government-controlled agencies to deal with all those who disagree with and criticise the government.”

The Quint 

In October 2018, the I-T department carried out a nearly-22 hour-long search at the office Noida-based independent media house, The Quint. I-T officials were also present at the residences of the founders -- Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kumar. 

According to the I-T officer leading the team, they were conducting a “search” on one floor of the office, and a “survey” on the other.

The Quint had reported to EGI stating, “We are a fully tax compliant entity, and will provide all access to all appropriate financial documents."


Back in 2017, during the initial years of the BJP, the CBI conducted a raid at the offices of NDTV, its founder Prannoy Roy and his residence. 

The agency alleged that its founders duped ICICI Bank of Rs 48 crores. 

NDTV denied any wrongdoing and said the loan had been repaid more than seven years ago. It said the searches were conducted without a preliminary inquiry and constituted a witch-hunt against independent media.

“This is a blatant political attack on the freedom of the press as sources confirm that under pressure, the CBI has been compelled to file an FIR based on a shoddy complaint by a disgruntled former consultant at NDTV called Sanjay Dutt, who has been making false allegations and filing cases in courts of law with these false allegations,” NDTV said in a release.

Greater Kashmir 

In October 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted raids across 10 locations in Jammu and Kashmir, including the offices of the Union Territory's leading English daily Greater Kashmir.

Expressing concern over the “mounting cost” of being a journalist in Kashmir, the Kashmir Editors’ Guild (KEG) had reacted to the raids and said, "Kashmir media continues to get targeted, demonised, vilified, and raided by both the state and non-state actors for a long time now.”


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