Over 100 locations across 5 cities were raided today
The raids at homes of several journalists linked to NewsClick website this morning followed detailed planning and extensive coordination between teams of Delhi Police, sources from the force have said.
The case against NewsClick under anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was registered on August 17, days after a New York Times investigation alleged that the news portal had received funding from a network pushing Chinese propaganda.
A meeting of senior officers of Delhi Police Special Cell decided to take matters forward during a meeting yesterday, sources have said. According to the sources, a list of all the journalists whose homes would be raided today was prepared. These journalists were then divided into three categories -- each category specifying the action to be taken against them.
As many as 500 police personnel were involved in the raids at over 100 locations across Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Mumbai.
While no arrests have been made yet, several senior journalists were taken to the offices of Special Cell for questioning. Gadgets belonging to journalists, including their cellphones and laptops, were seized for further investigation.
According to sources, police had also prepared a list of devices and matched IMEI numbers to those found during the raids. They were also carrying a list of 20-25 questions - on protests by farmers against the Modi government's "black" farm laws and protests in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh against the citizenship law.
The case against NewsClick and journalists linked to the website has charges under five sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and two under the Indian Penal Code.
The charges include criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between different groups, terrorist act and raising funds for terrorist activities.
Press organisations have expressed concern over the crackdown against NewsClick.
The Editors Guild of India said in a statement, "EGI is deeply concerned about the raids at the residences of senior journalists on the morning of October 3, and the subsequent detention of many of those journalists. Urges the state to follow due process, and not to make draconian criminal laws as tools for press intimidation."
The Press Club of India put out a statement with a 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," they said.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters in Bhubaneswar that he doesn't need to justify the action by security agencies. "If anyone has committed anything wrong, search agencies are free to carry out investigations against them under set guidelines," he said.
The Opposition parties have hit out at the government over the raids. The INDIA bloc has released a joint statement, saying it stands with the media. "The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) parties strongly condemn the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) government's fresh attack on the media. We steadfastly stand with the media and for the constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and expression," the bloc said.
Individually, prominent Opposition leaders, Congress's Shashi Tharor, JDU's Rajiv Ranjan Singh, RJD's Manoj Jha and Shiv Sena (UBT)'s Priyanka Chaturvedi targeted the government over the raids. Many of them also cited India's poor ranking on World Press Freedom index.