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Delhi: Left Parties Protest Police Action Against Journalists, Newsclick Staff

Hundreds gathered at Jantar Mantar to express anger against Delhi Police's recent crackdown on portal NewsClick and the free press.

Social activists and people in the political sphere associated with various Left parties and trade unions gathered at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, demanding the release of NewsClick's editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakravarty. Not only them, but the crowd demanded the repeal of UAPA and severe attack by the current regime on the free press.

Representatives from CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), CITU, AICCTU, and AIFB, among other organisations, were present to register their protest.

On October 3, 2023, over 70 houses of journalists, contributors and consultants associated with NewsClick were raided, and their phones and laptops were seized by the Special Cell of Delhi Police. The list of the people raided included even the independent journalists who had in the past written for NewsClick and ex-employees who currently have no connection with the organisation.

On the same day, even the NewsClick office was temporarily sealed, and the journalists were called for questioning at the Delhi Police Special Cell office. Several journalists were even called for a second round of questioning on October 5, 2023, while their devices remained with the police. The questioning continued on October 6.

Furthermore, Purkayastha and Chakravarty were arrested and sent on remand for seven days. The matter concerning their remand custody has been heard in the Delhi High Court, and the judgment stands reserved as of now.

"If these people can stoop so low, we must get on the streets. Delhi Police chargesheet looks like it's a movie script," said KM Tiwari, the General Secretary of CPI(M), Delhi.

He further added, "In a condition like this, all opposition parties must come together and pass a strong message. They even sealed NewsClick; this is why we must take to the streets and show them our power and unity."

People came out with placards that said "Stop the Attack on Freedom of Press", "Release the seized devices of journalists", "Hands off NewsClick", "Release Prabir and Amit", and many other such slogans.

Amid sloganeering, leaders from the different parties were addressing the crowd.

CPI(M) polit bureau member Brinda Karat lashed out at the RSS-BJP-led government at the Centre for taking the illegal UAPA route to circumvent the HC protection to these journalists after the ED-CBI-IB conspiracy to frame them fell flat without any proof. She added that the nationwide spontaneous protests against their arrests also pricked the governmental propaganda packed with lies against Newsclick.

Talking about the long fight that one needs to register in current circumstances, All India Secretary of CPI Amarjeet Kaur said, "We'll talk about the journalists and revolt against the draconian UAPA, that's true. But we need to understand that for their release, we are fighting a fascist regime. The attack is on everyone who talks and dares to take a stand against the government. When Prabir and other reporters were taken, they were asked if they had covered the farmers' protest, CAA, and other protests. How is this anti-national? If a journalist does not cover such issues, then the journalist is failing. The truth is that this government is trying rigorously to suppress the common public and the voices that dare to amplify the causes of the farmers and workers."

The communist parties had even organised public gatherings in over 25 places in Delhi, involving the general public and explaining what has been happening to the digital media. Representatives said that more such marches and events would be planned across India in the near future.

The AIFB National General Secretary G Devarajan, adding to what Amarjeet Kaur mentioned, said, "This will not be limited to NewsClick or any one political party. It's a statement that the government has given to the whole press and any political party. It was a clear statement from the government that the race for 2024 elections has begun, and they will not stop here."

SK Pande, President of the National Alliance of Journalists and Vice-president of the Delhi Union of Journalists, also attended the protest to express his gratitude to the political parties who had taken a firm stand for the journalists today facing attacks from the current regime. He also said that the citizens now need to come together and take this movement forward to prevent such attacks from happening again.

Many women from different organisations were also present in solidarity with the journalists. Among them were research scholars and activists who have been observant of the attack on the press.

Sweta, a student from DU, expressed how she feels about the country's situation as a whole.

"It has been a very challenging phase for all of us. As a young student, I feel scared to write anything on social media, and I think this is the purpose behind the actions taken."

The demonstration which saw the participation of hundreds of people from all walks of life demanded in one voice the immediate release of those journalists arrested under UAPA and an end to the RSS-BJP attacks against free media.

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