I-T raids at Newslaundry, NewsClick offices, employees’ phones seized

'The organisation's financial records are being checked.'

media freedom
The NewsClick office had been raided earlier in February.

Raids were conducted by the income tax (I-T) department at the offices of online news media organisations NewsClick and Newslaundry on Friday.

Reports of the operations trickled in the late afternoon, with The Wire quoting a senior NewsClick employee who is working from home as saying: “There is a search and seizure order, so the phones of all persons present in the office have been seized, making it difficult to get any information.”

The raids, which started before noon, are still ongoing and the phones of all those present in office are turned off. Around 3 pm, some employees at Newslaundry were reportedly allowed to leave the office.

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The Wire article, reporting a Newslaundry source, said: “When the I-T officials came in at 11.40 am today, there were around 20 people at the office in Sarvodaya Enclave. Everyone’s phones were confiscated, switched off and kept together on a table.”

The employee was further quoted as saying that “six to seven persons from the income tax department landed at the office… so far the raid is only at one office of Newslaundry,” and that “the organisation’s financial records are being checked”.

This is not the first time that the I-T department has landed at the doors of news media organisations and journalists.

Newslaundry offices were raided in 2014, while in February this year the Enforcement Directorate (ED) knocked on the doors of the NewsClick office and the residences of its editors in connection with allegations of money laundering and funding the organisation had received from “dubious companies” abroad. The ED had called it a “routine check”, while the portal approached the Delhi High Court, which granted it interim relief in the case.

The Wire quoted a source at NewsClick as saying: “Soon after the Delhi High Court order on the ED case, an I-T case was slapped on us. About two months ago, a team from the department came to our office to record the statements of editors Prabir Pukayastha and Pranjal.”

In July, the department raided offices of Dainik Bhaskar, while Newslaundry yesterday, September 8, carried an article on police raids at the homes of four Kashmiri journalists – Hilal Mir, Shah Abbas, Showkat Motta and Azhar Qadri – in which their digital devices and travel documents were confiscated.

Also read: Ahead of polls, slew of raids on opposition parties

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