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Seven Media Bodies Jointly Condemn Police Searches At News Portal's Office And Its Editors' Houses

In a joint statement, seven media bodies including Press Association, Press Club of India and Digipub News India Foundation said the manner in which the Delhi Police has acted on the complaint of a BJP spokesperson 'smacks of sheer vendetta'.

BJP IT Cell Head Amit Malviya
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Media associations on Tuesday condemned searches carried out by the Delhi Police at the offices of news portal The Wire and the houses of its editors on the basis of a complaint filed by BJP leader Amit Malviya.

What did the media bodies say?

In a joint statement, seven media bodies including Press Association, Press Club of India and Digipub News India Foundation said the manner in which the Delhi Police has acted on the complaint of a BJP spokesperson "smacks of sheer vendetta".

"It is surprising that even after the news portal issued a detailed retraction for its editorial lapses, putting out the same in the public domain, the Delhi Police, based on the complaint of the BJP leader which includes a bevy of charges including criminal clauses under the IPC, registered an FIR and chose to proceed (with) investigating the matter with uncharacteristic promptness," the statement said.

Delhi Union of Journalists, Working News Cameraman Association, Indian Journalists Union and Kerala Union of Working Journalists are also signatories to the statement.

Earlier, in a separate statement, Digipub News India Foundation claimed that the searches "mainly serve the purpose of criminalising and creating a chilling effect against the profession of journalism in India".

"A journalist or a media organisation that publishes a false report ought to be held accountable by its peers and civil society," the statement said.

"But for the police to carry out an immediate and arbitrary search of the media house's office and its editors' homes, based entirely on a private complaint of defamation filed by a spokesperson of the ruling party, smacks of malafide intentions," it added.

It noted that Malviya's complaint was regarding a series of stories published by The Wire about social media company Meta, claiming that he had special censorship privileges through an Instagram programme called "X-Check".

Malviya's FIR

The Delhi Police had filed an FIR against  the newsportal and its editors based on a complaint by Malviya, who accused it of "cheating and forgery" and "tarnishing" his reputation.

Malviya's complaint was filed with Delhi Police's special commissioner (crime) against The Wire, its founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia and M K Venu, deputy editor and executive news producer Jahnavi Sen, the Foundation for Independent Journalism and other unknown people.

The complaint was filed for various offences punishable under sections 420 (cheating), 468 and 469 (forgery), 471 (fraud), 500 (defamation) r/w 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (criminal act) of the Indian Penal Code.

"I am filing the present complaint for the offences of cheating, forgery for the purpose of harming the reputation, using as genuine a forged document or electronic record and defamation amongst other provisions of the IPC by the accused," read Malviya's complaint.

"A case has been filed. Investigation will be initiated and necessary action will be taken," the officer said.

What did 'The Wire' say?

The Wire had retracted the said articles last month, claiming that it was deceived by a member of its investigative team.

News portal 'The Wire' has also filed a police complaint against one of its former consultant in connection with a "fabricated" story related to the BJP's IT department head Amit Malviya, a senior police officer said.

The Delhi Police carried out searches at the houses of the portal's founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan and deputy editor M K Venu on Monday.

A senior police officer said searches were conducted at The Wire's office as well and all electronic devices relevant to the probe were seized. 

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