In a move that has raised serious concerns about media freedom in India, Indian police conducted raids on the homes of at least eight journalists and activists on Tuesday.
The individuals targeted were reportedly connected to the English-language news website NewsClick, which has faced allegations of receiving foreign funding.
Crackdown on NewsClick
Indian authorities had filed a case in 2021 accusing NewsClick of receiving foreign funds.
The New York Times had also previously reported that NewsClick was financed by US millionaire Neville Roy Singham, who was alleged to have influenced the website's content with Chinese government talking points—a claim vehemently denied by Singham.
One of the journalists targeted in the raids, Aritry Das, described the police's actions as they "barged into my home" at dawn, questioned her about her reporting, and confiscated her laptop, phone, and computer hard disks.
Outcry from activists
The Mumbai Press Club has expressed "deep concern" at these raids, emphasizing that "multiple journalists affiliated with NewsClick have been subjected to raids."
They demanded that the police cease what they perceive as a targeted harassment campaign against these journalists.
Historian and activist Sohail Hashmi, also raided in connection with NewsClick, spoke about his experience, saying, "From the warrant that they reluctantly showed me, the raid at my residence was related to an investigation into NewsClick."
Hashmi was forced to hand over his laptop, phone, and hard disks containing more than a decade of his writing, characterizing the raid as a "combination of intimidation and a crackdown on freedom of the press and speech."
Press freedom in decline
India has witnessed a significant decline in press freedom since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, according to rights activists and opposition lawmakers.
Reporters Without Borders warns that "press freedom is in crisis" in India, with the country's media freedom ranking dropping from 140 to 161 since 2014, including an 11-place drop in just the past year.
Journalists critical of the government have reported increased harassment, both on social media—where Modi's ruling party has a powerful presence—and in the real world. Critics have accused Modi's government of pressuring rights groups by scrutinizing their finances and clamping down on foreign funding.
Targeting prominent voices
The Network of Women in Media in India decried the "shocking" raids, noting that they had targeted "prominent voices of dissent."
Among those raided were founding editor Prabir Purkayastha, journalists Aunindyo Chakravarty, Bhasha Singh, and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, as well as satirist Sanjay Rajoura and activist Teesta Setalvad.
The raids on journalists and activists have raised questions about the state of democracy and freedom of expression in India, with international organizations and civil society groups closely monitoring the situation.