NewsClick journalists who were raided by Delhi Police on Tuesday in connection with a probe into the news portal's alleged foreign funding, were questioned on whether they had reported on matters like the 2020 Delhi riots, the farmers’ protest against the Narendra Modi government’s farm laws and the COVID-19 crisis. The Delhi police questioned a total of 46 suspects and arrested two persons including NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha, who have now been sent to police custody for seven days.
The Delhi Police searched 30 locations connected with the online news portal and its journalists in a case filed under the anti-terror law UAPA following allegations that it received money for pro-China propaganda. Digital devices, documents and other items were seized for examination. Among those questioned were journalists Urmilesh, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Abhisar Sharma, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta as well as historian Sohail Hashmi, satirist Sanjay Rajoura and D Raghunandan of the Centre for Technology & Development.
Police sources told PTI that investigators posed a list of 25 questions on various issues, including their foreign travels, protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Shaheen Bagh as well as the farmers' agitation. Those being questioned have been divided into three categories, A, B and C, sources said, but did not divulge details on this.
Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta told reporters after he was released that he was asked if he had called a US phone number which belongs to his brother-in-law and if he uses the Signal messaging app. He was also asked if he had covered the Delhi riots in 2020 and the farmers’ protest against the Centre's three contentious farm laws.
With regards to Delhi riots, Thakurta said he didn't cover it. "They asked me whether I reported on farmers protests. I said yes. There were many people questioning me. All of them asked different questions,” he said.
A junior member of NewsClick's editorial team, whose house was also raided, told The Wire that she was asked if she was “paid extra” for stories on the farmers’ protest and the Delhi riots. “They also wanted to know why I wrote stories against the country and government. They had no follow up questions, just a performa that they were reading from,” the employee told The Wire.
According to a report by Newslaundry, one employee was also asked thei rviews on the current government, if they believed Aravind Kejriwal is better, what their view on the Congress is, etc.
The police action drew sharp reaction from opposition parties and press bodies which accused the BJP of indulging in a "witch-hunt" against journalists who criticise the government. NewsClick is known for its critical reporting of the government. In the past as well, several Indian media offices including BBC, The Quint, Dainik Bhaskar have been ‘searched’ after they showed signs of dissent against the government.