Those who were around during the National Emergency imposed by the ruling circles in 1975, would remember that the press was heavily muzzled. In scenes reminiscent or perhaps much worse than that, the Delhi Police raided the office of the news portal NewsClick early in the morning of 3rd October 2023, and also the homes of nearly fifty men and women in the NCR of Delhi and other cities of India.
The homes targeted were of journalists and cultural activists and others who had worked with the media house NewsClick at any time in the past. The police seized their phones and laptops. The men among them were taken to a Special Cell of the Delhi Police for interrogation and allowed to go only late in the evening, while the women were interrogated at their residences. The raids were carried out under a First Information Report (FIR) which invokes several provisions of the harsh UAPA, a law enacted supposedly to deal with terrorist acts. Mr Prabir Purkayastha who is the founder and Chief Editor of NewsClick and Mr Amit Chakravarty, in charge of its Human Resources department, have been arrested and are in police custody.
This is an unwarranted and brazen attack on journalists and on freedom of expression and the press which are supposed to be guaranteed to all citizens and indeed humans in any civilised society. The news portal NewsClick has been raising issues concerning the problems of workers, peasants women and ordinary people. It often blamed the government for the sorry state of affairs and moreover dared to expose the incorrectness of official accounts in some cases. It is quite apparent that this is the reason for the unfair attack on it.
People belonging to various organisations like trade unions, women’s organisations, human rights organisations, political parties and others have condemned these attacks. The Editor’s Guild and the Press Club of India immediately expressed concern over this attack. The Editor’s Guild issued a statement that it “Urges the state to follow due process, and not to make draconian criminal laws as tools for press intimidation.” The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) said the raids were illegal and a blatant violation of democratic rights.
Moreover, several demonstrations have been organised in Delhi and other cities to protest the attacks and to demand immediate release of those arrested.
One such demonstration was held at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi, today – see pictures. Over three hundred people from various organisations participated in the spirited demonstration. They shouted slogans against the attack and in defence of the struggles of the people as well as in defence of their right to express themselves and in defence of freedom of the press. Leaders from various political parties and organisations including CPI, CPI(M), Communist Ghadar Party of India, CPI–ML and others addressed the gathering.
Lok Raj Sangathan condemns the attack on journalists, on the press, on the right to conscience. It calls upon all justice-loving people to resolutely oppose such anti-people acts by the authorities and demands the immediate release of the arrested officials of NewsClick. It deplores in very harsh terms the propensity of the government to use the notorious “anti-terrorist” Act UAPA against journalists and others fighting for and reporting on people’s struggles.
By our Delhi Correspondent