The searches were conducted by officers from Special Cell of Delhi Police.
Several journalists in Delhi associated with the website NewsClick were raided by the Delhi Police this morning in connection with a case under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). According to sources, Delhi Police registered the case under the anti-terror law on August 17, days after a New York Times investigation alleged that the news portal had received funding from a network pushing Chinese propaganda.
Some of the journalists tweeted on social media that their laptops and phones had been seized.
Officers from the Special Cell of Delhi Police carried out searches at around two dozen locations in Delhi-NCR. No arrests have been made so far, but sources said some journalists have been taken to police stations for questioning.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur, responding to media questions, said in Bhubaneswar, "I don't need to justify... If anyone has committed anything wrong, search agencies are free to carry out investigations against them under set guidelines..."
The raids on journalists have triggered a political backlash, with many calling it a crackdown on press freedom.
The Press Club of India expressed concern, using the hashtag #DefendMediaFreedom: "The Press Club Of India is deeply concerned about the multiple raids conducted on the houses of journalists and writers associated with Newsclick. We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement.
The Press Club of India is deeply concerned about the multiple raids conducted on the houses of journalists and writers associated with #Newsclick.— Press Club of India (@PCITweets) October 3, 2023
We are monitoring the developments and will be releasing a detailed statement.
"The PCI stand in solidarity with the journalists and demands the government to come out with details. #DefendMediaFreedom," it added.
Earlier, the Enforcement Directorate had registered a case against the news portal and investigated its funding. The central agency had also attached some assets linked to the news portal.
The case, sources said, relates to alleged violations in foreign funding and its use. The fresh FIR is based on information shared by the Enforcement Directorate.
The ED had earlier alleged that the news portal received a sum of nearly Rs 38 crore from entities linked to China, and how this amount was used is under the scanner.
People who have received salaries or remunerations from NewsClick are being probed. Laptops and phones of journalists whose homes were searched today have been seized for further investigation.
Police sources said more information about the searches will be shared later.
In August, a New York Times investigation had alleged that NewsClick is among organisations that were funded by a network linked to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham that pushes Chinese propaganda.
The news portal and its sources of funding came under the lens back in 2021, when the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police filed a case against it. The Enforcement Directorate case was based on this case. The Delhi High Court gave NewsClick promoters protection from arrest, and the matter is now in court.
The news portal's offices were also searched by Income Tax officers in 2021 in an alleged tax evasion case.
NewsClick's editor Prabir Purkayastha had then hit out at the crackdown against the news portal. "These investigations by various agencies, and these selective allegations, are attempts to stifle the independent journalism of media organisations - including NewsClick. The Constitution of India under Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, a right central to our work," he had said.
Following the New York Times report in August, Mr Purkayastha had told The Indian Express. "These are not new allegations. They have been made in the past. We will respond to them in the appropriate forum, i.e. the court, as the matter is sub judice."