When it comes to rifts between the government and media outlets, the United States has nothing on India. A raid on one of the country’s most liberal and critical news sites has free-speech advocates crying foul. Here is the full story.
Indian News Outlet
NewsClick is an English-language news outlet in India that has focused on stories of social injustice since its founding in 2009.
In recent years, NewsClick has been especially critical of the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power in 2014.
Modi and his administration have fought back by accusing the news organization of various financial indiscretions over the years. It mostly comes off as an attempt to discredit the PM’s detractors.
But in August of 2023, the government took their campaign against NewsClick up several notches.
“Mouthpiece for the Communist Party”
That’s when the administration claimed that NewsClick had received funding from a Chinese supporter and was, in effect, a “mouthpiece for the Communist Party of China.”
For their part, NewsClick denies any such affiliation and says it has always obeyed the laws of India.
That didn’t get the news organization off the hook, though, and Modi’s government apparently continued its investigation into the fall.
Then, in early October, Indian police raided the homes of 46 journalists, contributors, and even family members associated with NewsClick.
Confiscated Cell Phones and Laptops
Among the items confiscated were cell phones, laptop computers, DVDs, and physical documents.
And it wasn’t just physical and electronic evidence authorities were looking for, either. They wanted to get the truth from the people involved.
According to satirist Sanjay Rajoura, police raided his home at about 6:30 a.m.
After they grabbed the items they wanted, they grabbed the man himself and took him in for questioning.
Hardly anyone seemed off-limits when it came to being swept up in the raid. Even a tenuous connection to NewsClick was enough to snarl some people in the government’s trap.
A Darker Agenda at Play?
That was the case for historian Sohail Hashmi, who never contributed directly to NewsClick.
Hashmi’s crime, it seems, was being interviewed on a couple of videos the news outlet aired and also having some friends who work at NewsClick.
Some of Modi’s political opponents have said that they think the raids were nothing more than diversionary tactics to distract the public from more pressing matters.
Others think there is a broader, darker agenda at play, and they want to shine a light on it.
INDIA, a coalition of political parties who oppose Modi’s government, issued a statement that said the prime minister was attempting to “convert the media into a mouthpiece for its partisan and ideological interests.”
Critics Were Raided Before
This isn’t the first time Modi has issued “raid” orders against media outlets.
Back in February of 2023, for example, Indian authorities carried out a similar raid on BBC journalists after the airing of a documentary that criticized Modi.
And when Dainik Bhaskar, a Hindi-language newspaper, was critical of the administration’s handling of the pandemic in 2021, their offices were raided by tax authorities.
It all adds up to a pattern of retaliation against free speech that makes observers wonder if Modi and his government are trying to build their own impenetrable iron curtain.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Madhuram Paliwal