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Bihar: Protest Against Arrests and Raids on NewsClick in Patna

Protest marks second demonstration in last three days against use of police by BJP-led central government to target NewsClick and journalists associated with it.
Bihar: Protest Against Arrests and Raids on NewsClick in Patna

Patna: Hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered here in response to a call from the Citizen Forum to protest against the police action targeting the news portal NewsClick. The arrest of NewsClick's founder and editor-in-chief, Prabir Purkayastha, and its human resources head, Amit Chakravorty, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has sparked outrage. This protest, held on Thursday evening, October 6, marks the second demonstration in the last three days against the use of police by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)-led central government to target NewsClick and journalists associated with it.

On Saturday afternoon, a four-hour-long sit-in protest (Partirodh Sabha) organised by Jan Abhiyan will be held in protest against the attack on NewsClick and the arrests of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravorty.

On the evening of October 3, the All India Peoples Forum organised the first protest march against police action on NewsClick. Several leaders of the ruling Mahagathbandhan, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation (CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Janta Dal (United) (JD-U) leader and former minister Neeraj Kumar, former Bihar assembly speaker and Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) leader Uday Narayan Choudhary, and dozens of activists, political leaders, and others participated.

Protesters marched from the GPO Golumber to Buddha Smriti Park near Patna railway junction, holding placards and wearing handwritten badges that read "Free The Press." They chanted slogans such as "To Save Press Freedom," "Stop Attack or Crackdown on Press," "Release NewsClick's Prabir and Amit," "Shame on Modi-led Govt," and "Modi Murdabad."

A handbill written in Hindi was distributed among the people, denouncing the BJP-led central government's attempt to suppress free speech and independent media.

Addressing the protest gathering on Friday evening, social activist Arun Mishra said that the police action against NewsClick is part of the Modi government's agenda to curtail freedom of expression. He stated, "Ever since Modi came to power, freedom of expression has been under attack. But the latest police action against NewsClick is a clear crackdown against independent media."

Mishra argued that NewsClick's "crime" is giving a voice to the poor, workers, farmers, and protestors, which the Modi-led government dislikes because it exposes ground realities. He also questioned the baseless allegations of foreign funding for Chinese propaganda against NewsClick, pointing out, "What about the huge amounts coming from Chinese companies to the PM CARES fund?"

Theatre artist Mona Jha stated that the police action against NewsClick is retaliation by the Modi government for highlighting the farmers' protest, Delhi riots, and the Shaheen Bagh protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)- National Register of Citizens (NRC). She condemned the latest police action as a move to create fear and terror among citizens.

Anish Ankur, the Citizen Forum's convener and activist, addressed the gathering, asserting that NewsClick has faced harassment by the police and central agencies on the directions of the Modi government for over two years for holding a mirror to its actions. He pointed out, "Despite ED (Enforcement Directorate) to IT (Income Tax) raids, nothing substantial has been found against NewsClick. The government has arrested Prabir and Amit based on baseless allegations, creating fear by invoking China to suppress the media."

Sanjay Shayam criticised the police crackdown as an example of an undeclared emergency and an attempt to suppress press freedom. He accused the Modi government of spreading misinformation against NewsClick by linking it with so-called China propaganda.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Ram Lala Singh argued that NewsClick has been targeted by the Modi government for reporting on marginalised, voiceless, and weaker sections of society, which goes against the BJP's agenda.

Professor Satish Kumar of Patna University criticised the Modi government for undermining democratic institutions. He stated, "In a democratic country, it is not expected to arrest NewsClick editor Prabir and physically challenged HR head Amit under UAPA, which is intended for terrorists. It is high time that people raise their voices against this."

Kamlesh Sharma of the All India People Forum pointed out that despite repeated raids and interrogations by central agencies against NewsClick since 2021, the Modi government has failed to produce significant evidence against it. The latest police crackdown on NewsClick and its associated journalists in Delhi appears politically motivated.

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