Global Civil Society Alliance Calls on Indian Authorities to Drop Charges Against NewsClick, Stop Harassment of Media
CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, has called on the Indian authorities "to end the crackdown against NewsClick and release its editor and staff held" under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).
NewsClick's editor-in-chief, Prabir Purkayastha, and its HR head, Amit Chakravarty, were arrested under charges of terrorism and criminal conspiracy by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police after the latter raided over 70 locations connected to NewsClick, including the homes of its employees and consultants.
CIVICUS is a global alliance "of over 10,000 civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world."
During the October 3 raids by the Delhi Police on NewsClick, electronic devices (including mobile phones, laptops and hard disks) of journalists were seized. The Police questioned at least 46 journalists associated with NewsClick. Majorly, they were asked about their coverage of the protests against farm laws and the Citizenship Amendment Act (ACT) and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a complete assault on press freedom in India and an act of reprisal against the critical and independent journalism of NewsClick. Charging a news outlet under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, is a brazen attempt to silence and harass independent media, activists and citizens. We call for the immediate release of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty. All charges against NewsClick must be dropped,” said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS.
Delhi Police's FIR was registered on August 17 after the New York Times published an article alleging that NewsClick received funds from a US businessman. The article alleged that the media portal "had sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points."
However, except for a video discussing the Chinese revolution, no proof was offered by the New York Times to corroborate its allegation of NewsClick furthering Chinese government talking points.
The FIR against NewsClick alleges a variety of things, including conspiring "to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India" by accepting illegal foreign funds. Additionally, the FIR alleges that the media portal tried to discredit the government and caused disaffection against the country.
In its statement, NewsClick has outrightly dismissed all the accusations made in the FIR. It has categorically said that it does not publish anything "at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority, directly or indirectly." Moreover, the accusation of illegal foreign funding was also deemed false by NewsClick.
In the past, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented the misuse of the UAPA law by Indian authorities against activists to stifle dissent.
“This crackdown against independent media is further testimony of the deterioration of civic space in India. The authorities stop misusing repressive laws like the UAPA against activists, civil society and journalists. They must comply with India’s obligations under international human rights laws and standards.” Kode said.
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