The NYT, Mass Raids & 2 Indian Journalists Arrested

The crackdown this week came in the wake of a New York Times report in August associating NewsClick and other outlets with Chinese propaganda, Zoe Alexandra reports for Peoples Dispatch, a targeted publication.

Protesters outside the New York Times building in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday in response to the raids on Indian news sites. (X/Twitter, Party for Socialist Liberation)

By Zoe Alexandra
Peoples Dispatch

The homes of dozens of journalists, contractors, and former employees associated with the progressive news outlets Newsclick and Peoples Dispatch, as well as Tricontinental Research Services, were raided by Indian authorities in the early hours of Tuesday in the capital New Delhi. 

Several raids were also carried out in the cities of Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Mumbai. According to local reports around 50 individuals were taken in to the police station for additional questioning.

Newsclick Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha and an administrator, Amit Chakraborty, have been arrested under the draconian anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). At least 500 police officers and intelligence agents participated in the operation. 

Among those subjected to raids, interrogation and detention are renowned journalists Urmilesh, Abhisar Sharma, Aunindyo Chakraborty, Bhasha Singh, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, comedian Sanjay Rajoura and human rights activist and former political prisoner Teesta Setalvad.

Following his release Sharma said, 

“After a day long interrogation by Delhi special cell, I am back home. Each and every question posed will be answered. Nothing to fear. And I will keep questioning people in power and particularly those who are afraid of simple questions. Not backing down at any cost.”

Democracy Under Attack

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017. (, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

Police records show that the case against Newsclick under UAPA was registered on Aug. 17, just over a week after a New York Times report was published that alleged that Newsclick, amongst other progressive news outlets, is part of a Chinese news propaganda network. [The Times’ news coverage of the raids this week mentioned its August “investigation.”]

The report sparked a political and media scandal within India, which saw right-wing news outlets running dozens of pieces lodging accusations that the members of the outlets are Chinese propagandists. 

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Members of Parliament from the far-right ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as well as high-level authorities such as Home Minister Amit Shah also made similar statements on the parliament floor and to media.

Tuesday’s raids and mass repression have been widely condemned by progressive organizations, press associations and opposition parties from across India as a grave attack on democracy, civil liberties, and human rights. 

The Editors Guild of India released a statement expressing deep concern “about the raids at the residences of senior journalists on the morning of Oct. 3, and the subsequent detention of many of those journalists.” The guild is urging the Indian government “to follow due process, and not to make draconian criminal laws as tools for press intimidation.”

The Delhi State Unit of All India Lawyers’ Union stated that they were 

“deeply concerned about the implications of these arrests for press freedom and the democratic values that our nation holds dear… Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of any vibrant democracy. It is essential for journalists to be able to report independently on matters of public interest without fear of harassment or intimidation. Journalists play a crucial role in holding those in power accountable and in informing the public about important issues.”

The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said in a statement

“This highly undemocratic, unjustified, repressive action has ostensibly been carried to intimidate independent and fearless journalists and others who have been critical of the government policies. The BJP government has now chosen to use the draconian UAPA along with other sections of the IPC to carry out these latest raids and confiscate the electronic belongings, including laptops and mobiles of the concerned individuals.”

DigiPub News India Foundation wrote the following strongly-worded, four-page letter to the chief justice of the Indian Supreme Court, signed by 15 press organizations:

Witnesses report that the raids of over 100 personal residences lasted on average between four and 10 hours. Those interrogated faced a wide range of questions such as whether or not they had reported on the farmers protests in India, the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, India’s mismanagement of Covid-19, or anything considered “anti-government.” 

In some cases, authorities ransacked people’s homes searching for material and one person reported that authorities threw his books to the floor and confiscated all titles by German philosopher Karl Marx. Cellphones and computers were seized from the majority of those subjected to the raids and were detained.

The office of Newsclick in New Delhi was sealed by police after it was raided.

The home of the secretary general of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury was also raided. Following the raid he told media, 

“Police came to my residence because one of my companions who lives with me there, his son, works for Newsclick. The police came to question him. They took his laptop and phone. What are they investigating? Nobody knows. If this is an attempt to try and muzzle the media, the country must know the reason behind this.”

Pattern of Harassment 

The repression today is just the latest act of harassment against Newsclick which was first raided in February 2021 by the Enforcement Directorate alleging economic fraud and money laundering. 

At the time, many activists had highlighted that the attack had occurred amid the growing farmers’ protests. Newsclick was one of the outlets providing consistent reporting on the struggle and had gained widespread notoriety for its on the ground reports from farmers’ protest camps. The country’s courts had granted the site protection from any “coercive measures” such as arrest and imprisonment by authorities in this case, but the latest UAPA case grants authorities special privileges to override those court protections.

[Related: A Win for Indian Democracy]

The UAPA which was first established in 1967 has come under increased scrutiny in recent years as it has been used by the government of far-right BJP leader Narendra Modi to persecute human rights activists, journalists and scholars in the country. 

[Related: LETTER FROM INDIA: Crackdown on Rights & Freedoms]

The law gives the government special powers to bypass civil liberties, fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens such as the right to a fair trial. The amendment to UAPA in 2008 gives the government the power to designate individuals or groups as terrorist with no formal judicial process.

[Related: India Far Less Committed to Liberal Values Than Imagined, Data Shows]

In a statement condemning the arrest of several anti-CAA protesters in 2020, Amnesty International wrote, 

“The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is routinely used by the government to bypass human rights and stifle dissent. In 2018, the conviction rate under UAPA was 27% while 93% of the cases remained pending in the court. It is a mere tool of harassment that the government uses to harass, intimidate and imprison those who are critical of the government. The slow investigative processes and extremely stringent bail provisions under UAPA ensure that they are locked up for years altogether, creating a convenient setting for unlawful detention and torture.”

The Students Federation of India (SFI) has called upon its units across India to organize emergency protests in response to “the brutal crackdown on Indian media by the Modi government.”

Zoe Alexandra is a correspondent for Peoples Dispatch.

This article is from  Peoples Dispatch.  

Views expressed in this article may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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9 comments for “The NYT, Mass Raids & 2 Indian Journalists Arrested

  1. October 7, 2023 at 10:22

    If the New York Times has its way, this could soon be occurring in the United States.

    • herm
      October 8, 2023 at 18:52

      This is exactly true.

  2. Christie
    October 6, 2023 at 21:39

    The comparison of Hindu supremacism (Hindutva) to Ukraine’s Bandera movement is apt. Hindutva has also been compared to Zionism:


    ICH recently posted long piece by Arundhati Roy (acceptance speech for winning 2023 European Essay Award) where she describes how the “fascist majoritarianism” currently championed by Modi and the Bharataya Janata Party (BJP) is mercilessly attacking dissidents of all stripes and backgrounds, including journalists. A ‘vigilante’ mindset prevails.


    India rules regressively on domestic policy, even as it has rightfully joined the BRICS alliance and circumvented U.S. sanctions on Russia.

    To complicate matters, India is likely being targeted by U.S. Intel for balkanization, with the idea of playing up ethno-sectarian conflicts as way of undermining the BRICS, e.g. Sikh separatism, while ignoring the urgent plight of the Kashmiris, who are getting the “Gaza” treatment.

    Thanks to CN for keeping these issues on the front burner.

  3. rosemerry
    October 6, 2023 at 13:29

    Anyone who thinks Modi is left does not get out much! The behavior towards Muslims and the illegal conquest of Kashmir plus the persecution of “Maoists” in the forests show he is far from that.
    Prominent writer and activist Arundhati Roy has often been arrested and continues to speak out, though I have heard little from her in recent times.
    The USA and Canada, of course, hate India under any PM for being independent , friendly towards Russia and willing to work as an important member of BRICS.

    • herm
      October 8, 2023 at 18:53

      Maybe I am not representative, but I read a lot and haven’t encountered anyone who calls Modi “left.”

  4. Henry Wallace
    October 6, 2023 at 10:57

    The NYT and Biden are of course going to pretend to support someone far to their left, such as Modi, in order to bolster their fake-lefty credentials for the election.

    And the above is only a small bit of sarcastic exaggeration.
    It is of course true that Biden and Wall Street are regularly ‘on edge’ about whether India will follow along on with their far-right war and economic policies. They are never quite certain that India will follow orders when Biden and Wall Street order extreme policies. Which makes Modi just another unreliable lefty from where the NYT and Biden sit on their thrones. But this is the season when Biden and the NYT have to pretend to actually like those ‘unreliable lefties’.

    • Lois Gagnon
      October 6, 2023 at 15:30

      Wondering why you think Modi is a lefty. He’s always been described as on the right in my experience.

      • Rafael
        October 6, 2023 at 18:12

        The description is correct. Modi’s BJP party is the political wing of the RSS, a fascistic Hindu-supremacist organization which organizes anti-islamic terrorism. If I recall correctly, they celebrate the assassin of Gandhi, much as the Ukrainian fascists celebrate Stepan Bandera. Henry’s thinking might have been colored by the fact that Modi, continuing the long-standing Indian policy of friendship with Russia, refuses to support the US “sanctions” and boycott against them.

    • herm
      October 8, 2023 at 18:58

      Isn’t it funny how the much discussed Overton Window has moved so far to the right that a fanatically rightwing populist is able to outflank the liberal “rules base order” from the left? I’d laugh if I could at the tragedy of our age.

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