A local court in Delhi on Wednesday remanded Prabir Purkayastha, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online media outlet NewsClick and Amit Chakraborty, head of the media outlet’s Human Resources department, to seven days police custody over allegations of promoting Chinese propaganda.
Delhi Police had conducted a series of raids on Tuesday on the team behind NewsClick as well as its contributors, including independent journalists, following the allegations that they received money for promoting Chinese propaganda. After the raids, police sealed the NewsClick’s Delhi office.
Total 46 people were interrogated in connection with the charges. Police took away their digital devices, including laptops and mobile phones, along with certain documents, for examination.
Those questioned included senior journalists Urmilesh, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Abhisar Sharma and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta; historian Sohail Hashmi; satirist Sanjay Rajoura and D Raghunandan of the Centre for Technology and Development. They were interrogated for over six hours and allowed to go later.
The Delhi Police then arrested Purkayastha and Chakraborty under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The media firm had come under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Economic Offences Wing (EoW) of the Delhi Police after a report published in the New York Times accused it of receiving money from US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for promoting pro-China propaganda in India.
On August 17, a case under the stringent provisions of UAPA and other various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Section 153A (promoting enmity between two groups) and 120B (criminal conspiracy), was registered against the portal.
Besides the current charges, a case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) earlier was also pending against NewsClick.
The media portal was accused of overvaluing its shares, diverting its funds and violating the regulations of foreign direct investment (FDI).
NewsClick and Purkayastha had earlier approached the Delhi High Court seeking a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) filed by ED against them in the PMLA case.
The High Court had p[assed interim orders on June 21, 2021 and July 20, 2021, directing ED not to take any coercive action against the website and its founder.
In August this year, the High Court had issued notice to NewsClick and Purkayastha in a petition filed by ED, seeking vacation of these orders protecting them from coercive action.
The plea filed by the media outlet seeking quashing of the criminal complaint filed by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW), was currently pending before the High Court.